To understand where teens like to spend their virtual time nowadways, just watch them on their smartphones. Their world revolves around Instagram, the application adults mistook for an elevated photography service, and other apps decidely less old-fashioned than Mark Zuckerberg’s kingdom.
And therein lies one of Facebook’s biggest challenges: With more than 1 billion users worldwide and an unstated mission to make more money, Facebook has become a social network that’s often too complicated, too risky, and, above all, too overrun by parents to give teens the type of digital freedom or release they crave.
For tweens and teens, Instagram — and, more recently, SnapChat, an app for sending photos and videos that appear and then disappear — is the opposite of Facebook: simple, seemingly secret, and fun. Around schools, kids treat these apps like pot, enjoyed in low-lit corners, and all for the undeniable pleasure and temporary fulfillment of feeling cool. Facebook, meanwhile, with its Harvard dormroom roots, now finds itself scrambling to keep up with the tastes of the youngest trendsetters — even as it has a foothold on millions of them since it now owns Instagram.
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