Are High School and College Students Leaving Facebook?

A recent flurry of related articles and posts regarding Facebook user demographics have been making some waves today:

2009 Facebook Demographics and Statistics Report: 513% Growth in 55+ Year Old Users. College & High School Drop 20% | iStrategyLabs.

Facebook’s Own Estimates Show Declining Student Numbers; Now More Grandparents Than High School Users - ReadWriteWeb.

Facebook Users Are Getting Older. Much Older - Mashable

As you might imagine, these articles have been tweeted and re-tweeted over and over again.  iStrategyLabs seems to have stumbled upon some interesting Facebook user demographic statistics and trends.


Where Have All the Students Gone?

As a college admissions professional, I am naturally interested in numbers and trends related to high school and college students.  The iStrategyLabs post points out:

The most troubling statitics we’ve seen are that there are 16.5% less high school users, and 21.7% less college users. There have been rumors that these younger user groups are being aliented by their parents joining the service, and this data seems to prove it.

Upon reading the first paragraph of the ReadWriteWeb post, a similar message is communicated:

There are more Facebook users over 55 years old today than there are high school students using the site.

There is, however, much more to the story.  Marshall Kirkpatrick admits, Users with undeclared education levels are way up, implying that many high school and college students may simply no longer be listing their schools at all on the site.” Of course, the ReadWriteWeb and iStrategyLabs articles both seem to imply that Facebook might be losing its grip on high school and college students.  I don’t believe this to be the case.  The data given just doesn’t lead me to this conclusion.

Maintaining Anonymity

The numbers are clear.  Users listed as currently enrolled high school students are down 16.5%, while those listed as currently enrolled are down 21.7%.  However, users age 0-17 and 18-24 are up 24.2% and 4.8% respectively.  Further, users with unknown current enrollment are up 124.3%.  Could it be that high school and college students are simply becoming smarter, more savvy Facebook users?  Teachers, administrators, employers, professors, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles have recently stumbled upon this crazy website called Facebook and many students may have elected to protect themselves by maintaining a sense of anonymity and refusing to associate themselves with a high school, college, or university.

An Exodus?

Perhaps it is too early to discern the true story.  Mashable and ReadWriteWeb both point out that the above data is rough,” a factor which may play a roll in pinpointing true high school and college Facebook trends.  Nevertheless, it could be that we are witnessing a mass exodus of high school and college students away from Facebook.  Without more convincing data, however, I don’t believe this to be the case.

What do you think?  Are high school and college students leaving Facebook en masse?  How do you interpret this data?

July 7, 2009