Social Media

Facebook Users Are Sharing Less Of Themselves

Hesitant to make their personal lives public, users are increasingly filling their feeds with news stories

Social Media
Mark Zuckerberg wants to know what you're up to today. — AFP/Getty Images
Apr 08, 2016 at 1:34 PM ET

Facebook used to be the place for talking about what was on your mind, posting photos of your family, or documenting your wild night out. It was about being social—hence the name “social network”—but in the last year, there has been a shift in user behavior. People are sharing more news stories and links, but less about their personal lives.

This is good news for those who lament that their feeds are flooded with nothing but photos of friends’ children, but it’s not so great for Facebook, which is largely powered by the sharing of more intimate content. Looking at usage stats that were tracked up through the middle of 2015, The Information points out that the sharing of personal stories had declined 21 percent year over year, and overall sharing is down 5.5 percent. Facebook was quick to point out that overall sharing is still “strong,” but the statistics clearly signal that people, especially the much-coveted millennial demographic, are choosing other venues for their more private updates—and video is often their method of choice. Last year, Snapchat’s video traffic more than tripled, as people quickly adopted its “stories” feature. Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) has also become a dominant social media force and is expected to grow another 15 percent this year.

Facebook has been available to the general public for almost a decade, and in that time, many users have amassed a list of friends bloated with old acquaintances and former coworkers—people you wouldn’t necessarily want to share the minutiae of your life with. Snapchat and Instagram, somewhat less ubiquitous for the time being, offer a space where you can share your thoughts with a smaller, carefully cultivated list of contacts.

Facebook is obviously eager to keep growing their user base, and to do that it needs a mix of personal and professionally-created content. In an effort to get people engaged, it just made Live, their streaming video feature, available to everyone. It has also implemented features like “On This Day” and holiday reminders to encourage people to post more. But while you wait for these gimmicks to (possibly) catch on, you might want to check Instagram or Snapchat if you want to know what’s really going on with your friends.