The social media site tried using memes and GIFs to bring back its young users, before then scrapping the plan. (Illustration by Yunyi Dai, Maryland Institute College of Arts)

LOL: Inside Facebook’s Unsuccessful Attempt to Lure Back Young Users

It’s become Facebook’s mission impossible.

In the last several years, millennial and Gen-Z Facebook usage has been shrinking. Dwarfed by counterparts Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, Facebook has been left behind in terms of social media hipness. I am no exception to the trend, as I, like most of my friends, prefer Instagram and Snapchat as hubs of communication with my social network.

In addition to their forthcoming dating app, Facebook also recently proposed a new Facebook meme app in hopes of bringing back a younger crowd. According to TechCrunch, the app, named LOL, would have allowed teenage users to interact with various memes and visual images such as GIFs.

It seems the proposal of the meme app project is part of Facebook’s plan to make the site a hotspot amongst teens once again. However, according to Recode, project chatter was halted in late January and followed by an abrupt cancellation of the app release.

In their attempt to attract younger users, Facebook’s plan to use memes and GIFs makes sense. The images are generally pretty juvenile, great for interactions with friends and nobody ever really stops enjoying memes, they just fall out of touch with them. The plan does have a whiff of corporate pandering, a “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibe, if you will, but it certainly has its merits on paper.

Facebook’s meme app was likely intended to entice users who preferred platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, Vine or Instagram. With the rise of social media sites in the past decade, tech-savvy younger users have found their interest increasingly fractured. A number of different platforms are constantly vying for their attention, rolling out new updates and features designed to usurp user time from their competition.

Facebook once held the crown as social media king, but the last several years have found the site out of touch with its younger base. This is true colloquially as well as factually, as most younger generations would much rather swap Instagram or Snapchat handles than exchange Facebook information. Mark Zuckerberg’s site, however, is so big and so deeply ingrained into modern life in other ways that it is no real risk of failure, only decreased relevancy.

Despite the Facebook meme app blunder, the company does have a meme generator page that allows any user to view a compilation of memes and short video clips. The meme generator itself is linked to another site, but the posts are on a Facebook group page.

Though this Facebook feature is lesser known, it remains a hub for meme content. It is also very engaging with pop culture and encompasses many recognizable figures, such as references to characters from “The Office.” Upon entering Facebook credentials, users can plunge into the world of meme-making through this feature, a possible alternative to the meme app.

Though the Facebook meme app was, overall, a flop, it won’t be long till the company launches its next plan to recapture younger users. According to Recode, Facebook has tasked a team of theirs to enhance a feature currently on the site, called Messenger Kids, that is intended for children below age 13. The former social media king can only hope its latest project is not another LOL moment.

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