I’ve often wondered if we are all wrong about Facebook.
I don’t mean the part where we question the data security practices, since we’re definitely right about that. Or when we question a business model that hinges on showing us ads as opposed to making a really compelling product.
The water-cooler conversations about who uses the platform are often wrong. We like to think Gen Z and other age groups have moved on to TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube. I’ve heard from readers and even colleagues who say Facebook is a dinosaur.
Many of the reports I’ve seen about the user demographics on Facebook tell a different story. One report from last summer suggests that all age groups use Facebook about the same amount. Globally, the age distribution tends to lean younger, dominated by those who are about 18-24 years old. What we might be seeing is that older age groups have adopted Facebook over other apps as a favored platform, even as young adults keep using it.
And then there’s this quick, throwaway comment from Mark Cuban in a recent podcast. The entrepreneur and Shark Tank host mentioned in passing how he was surprised how many young adults are using Facebook Groups. That’s a brilliant observation, and one that matches up with not only the stats above but my own experiences with this age group.
Gen Z like to accumulate knowledge. Some of them are whip smart, and they are extremely adept at using their phones. They view phones as a portal into the unknown. Ask any question, or engage in a conversation with Gen Z, and they are more likely to look up the answer quickly on their phones than those in other age groups. They are truth seekers. In mentoring students at a college, I found they were far less likely to accept something at face value or to follow a hunch or an assumption, which doesn’t make sense when you can Google it.
Facebook Groups fits right into that same thought process. When you can’t find the answer on Google, it makes sense to ask a real human instead, especially when you have a topic that is not exactly well formulated or lacks some context.
While Gen Z might not be posting or checking their news feed as often, they do communicate in Groups almost like a constant chat session. They also know that Groups members receive a notification when there’s a new question. Gen Z like to see results and don’t want to wait around for answers. They use Groups because they know they will likely find an answer to something quickly.
Cuban went on to praise the Gen Z generation for a related reason, one that is also surprising. Young adults tend to research and analyze things to a greater degree than older generations. Anyone aged 25 or younger grew up with easy access to the Internet and social media. They know how to ask questions on Google, and they use chat forums like Facebook Groups to help with homework, life questions, job conflicts, and everything else. Cuban even called them “the greatest generation” for that reason. They don’t like to assume anything.
Curiously, most people I know in the Gen Z age group don’t like to admit they use Facebook. Cuban nailed it, though. They use Facebook, just in a very different way from the rest of us.