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Teens have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, according to the latest “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy” report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “They dislike the increasing number of adults on the site, get annoyed when their Facebook friends share inane details, and are drained by the ‘drama’ that they described as happening frequently on the site,” the report’s authors said.

But these same teens still feel a need to stay on Facebook so that they don’t miss out on anything – a conclusion that is not a surprise to Megan Moreno, MD, who leads the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Moreno and her team’s recently-published Facebook influence study details why young people will still stick with the social networking site, despite it losing a bit of its appeal.

Why Facebook remains influential

“Facebook has become similar to Starbucks,” Moreno said. “It’s not necessarily hip and cool any more, but everyone still goes there because they’ve been buying coffee there for so long. There’s also something for everyone.”

What makes Facebook so influential? The recent SMAHRT study found as a connector, for example, that older adolescent Facebook users said that they can keep in touch with people they wouldn’t call or text, and that it’s a way to get to know acquaintances almost instantly. What about identifying with others? Adolescents said Facebook gives them the freedom to express things and to be heard. They can show off accomplishments to everyone on Facebook, and not just with close friends.

Negative side of Facebook, according to teens

And what about the negative or distracting sides of Facebook? Teens said it increases procrastination, is addictive and is a huge distraction. They also said, as a downside, that Facebook changes the nature of communication from face-to-face to screen-to-screen and that people are willing to sacrifice privacy.

Researchers’ real-world experience backs up the study. “I don’t really go on Facebook anymore,” said Rajitha Kota, 23, a clinical research associate on Moreno’s team. “It’s now become more of a way to share things that aren’t as personal. I’m on it because everyone else is on it but it’s not as exciting as it used to be.”

Kota said a few of her friends have even deleted their accounts. “I go on it when I’m bored,” she said with a smile.

To arrange an interview with Dr. Moreno, contact the Seattle Children’s public relations team at 206-987-4500 or via press@seattlechildrens.org.