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Facebook for older folk, Snapchat and Instagram for the young

Young people making switch to avoid having content scrutinised by parents and older relatives

More older people will flock to Facebook even as teenagers leave it for other platforms, data from a British survey shows.

It is projected that the number of British users older than 55 will increase by up to 500,000 this year, while some 700,000 users aged 24 and younger will leave the platform for alternatives like Snapchat, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp, which Facebook owns.

The user base aged between 25 and 44 is expected to remain the same.

According to eMarketer, this means the over-55s will become the second-largest demographic of Facebook.

Observers say the older set is getting increasingly tech-savvy. Its adoption of the platform has been slow but inexorable.

Most of these older users see the platform as a way to keep tabs on loved ones, particularly younger relatives like grandchildren.

Humorous posts such as this one on the Singapore Police Force's Facebook page have drawn the attention of its audience and got across the message not to take security and peace for granted.
Humorous posts such as this one on the Singapore Police Force's Facebook page have drawn the attention of its audience and got across the message not to take security and peace for granted. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

But, as every teen knows, it is hard to post edgy content expressing your identity if it is going to be scrutinised by older relatives rather than friends.

That is why many younger users seem to be ditching the platform for Snapchat and Instagram, which can be considered slightly harder to navigate for those unfamiliar with its content and feed system.

The Guardian interviewed a 21-year-old Facebook user who said he "unfriended" his mother on his account as her access to his newsfeed was "jarring".

"As soon as parents got in, they killed it," he said.

This trend has been observed in the major markets in the United States as well. Facebook lost about 2.8 million US users aged under 25 last year, eMarketer found.

The largest growth - adding more than one million extra users - would come from those aged 65 and older.

Facebook as a platform is increasingly facing issues retaining its more desirable customer base, an observation backed somewhat by official figures.

The number of users in the US and Canada dropped for the first time in the fourth quarter of last year.

The trend comes amid a flurry of changes by Facebook to rejig its newsfeed algorithm in order to "better serve" its core audience and create "meaningful conversations".

The projected changes in the platform's user base do not bode well for advertisers who naturally see younger users as a market with a potentially higher return on investment. But shifts in user base do not mean a platform is doomed.

Facebook has proven time and time again that it can find a way to remain economically viable amid changes in demographics.

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SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE MAKING WAVES ON SOCIAL MEDIA

The person who is running the social media channels of our vaunted Singapore Police Force (SPF) needs a well-deserved pay rise.

Through a series of posts ranging from humorous to serious, the team has shown that it knows exactly what its audience wants.

Here are a couple of standout examples.

In exhibit A, an image of a stick figure cop is seen chasing a similarly drawn man running with a can of abalone in his hand. The caption reads: "Stealing abalone? You'll end up ab-alone in prison."

Another example shows close-up images of a nose, ear, mouth and fingers. "Guard your belongings from wandering figures," it reads. "Pick anything but pockets."

On Thursday, the SPF released a heartwarming clip of several officers, many of them non-Chinese, singing Chinese New Year classics.

The response has been effusive.

Facebook user Eddie Chong said: "I am truly blessed to be a Singaporean. We are a truly multiracial and multi-religious country. I am so touched and happy to see all the various races singing the Chinese New Year song."

Another user, Ryan King, had this to say. "Great singing. You guys rock. Especially our non-Chinese policeman/policewoman who took up the challenge of singing it in Mandarin. Thanks for keeping us safe during the long weekend and every day."

But it is not all fun and games. Serious content posted by the SPF serves as a stark reminder that no one should take the Republic's peace for granted.

Last Sunday, it shared a hard-hitting clip on how law enforcement is working hard to keep the threat of secret societies at bay.

The video shows gang fights taking place in areas like Boat Quay, and shots of grievous wounds sustained during these fights.

Imagine deep knife wounds that expose bone and you get an idea of how graphic the video is.

The range of content shows that the police are certainly in tune with how to effectively get their message across-that security and peace cannot be taken for granted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Facebook for older folk, Snapchat and Instagram for the young'. Print Edition | Subscribe