A combination of scandals and competition has hit Facebook usage in Ireland, new figures suggest.
The online giant has seen the departure of as many as 300,000 people from its Irish user base in the last nine months, according to the company’s own sales statistics.
2.9 million Irish people were active on the site at the beginning of the year compared to 2.6m now, according to an analysis of the numbers by Cork-based Mulley Communications, which compiled the data.
The fall is steepest among teenagers and young adults. In the competitive 13-35 age category, there are 200,000 fewer Irish people active on Facebook today than at the start of the year.
And there has been a collapse in teenage users, falling by a third (150,000 to 100,000) in the last nine months.
However, there has been almost no fall-off in users over the age of 50, with 600,000 older Irish people still relying on the site for online social activity. This represents a fall of just 10,000 on the beginning of the year.
It means that there are now almost twice as many Facebook users in Ireland over the age of 65 (170,000) as there are 18 or under (100,000).
“In January there was only a difference of 20,000 users, now it’s 70,000 users,” said Damien Mulley of Mulley Communications, speaking about the gap between Irish teenagers and pensioners using Facebook.
But among adult users, a combination of scandals and dissatisfaction with the Facebook platform may be starting to tell.
“While less teens are joining Facebook and go direct to Snapchat and Instagram, there were great losses in most demographics,” said Mr Mulley. “This could be attributed to social media burnout and the fashion of decreasing screen time. Some attribution could be made for the deletion of fake accounts but the decreases are not consistent across the demographics. With nearly every Facebook news article being about privacy violations, Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of congress and documentaries like ‘The Great Hack’, the public are saying they have deleted their accounts.”
The figures also suggest that while Facebook-owned Instagram has had substantial success with its ‘Stories’ feature, Facebook is struggling to attract similar usage. While 1.5m of Instagram’s 1.8m Irish base use Instagram Stories, just 200,000 of Facebook’s 2.3m Irish users do the same.
“Both Facebook and Instagram copied the Stories feature on Snapchat to get more engagement,” said Mr Mulley. “Stories on Instagram have been a wild success but have been a massive failure in Facebook.”
The Irish figures appear to tally with recent statistics on declining Facebook usage in Belgium and the UK.
The tech giant has faced a relentless 18 months of bad publicity over scandals ranging from data breaches to political manipulation through the Cambridge Analytica affair. Last month, it was handed a $5bn fine by US regulators for data misuse. It is currently waiting for the Irish Data Protection Commissioner to rule on a number of statutory enquiries into data privacy issues across the EU.
However, Facebook has buttressed itself against decline in usage of its main platform through the popularity of its subsidiaries, Whatsapp and Instagram, which are widely used both by Irish adults and teenagers.