It Doesn't Matter If Teens Are 'Fleeing' Facebook

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sometimes the tendency toward groupthink and absence of logic in the media and on Wall Street makes me want to lock myself in a room with nothing but cheap beer and Springsteen's Nebraska album.

It's depressing to think we live in a society where thought dominoes fall bone after bone like soldiers marching in the North Korean military.

Even the otherwise excellent Forbes participates in the drill of dumbing things down to what we think is obvious about Facebook ( FB) and usage among teens.

First, Forbes trots out the same headline everybody else trotted out post earnings: Facebook Admits It's Seen A Drop In Usage Among Teens.

In the spirit of full disclosure, here at TheStreet, we used a similar lede: Facebook Loses Gains As Teens Flee. However, at least we (yes, we) didn't take it upon ourselves to, beyond use of the word "flee," make mountains out of statistical molehills.

While I might take exception with the word "flee," the use of "admits" in the Forbes headline drives me insane. As if Facebook did something wrong or is doing something wrong and, sheepishly, came clean. That's how the Forbes author portrayed the shift from Mark Zuckerberg, weeks ago, saying there's nothing going on with teens to the Facebook CFO's "admission" (I did that on purpose!) that "we did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens."

Even after Forbes notes that CFO David Ebersman categorized the "trend" (again, Forbes is fast and loose with the English language here ... do we really have a "trend" yet?) as "of questionable statistical significance," the article goes on to call the apparent drop among younger teens "awkward news." Of course, Forbes says "awkward news about teens" (without the qualification of younger teens), sensationalizing things further by claiming the news "marred" an otherwise fine earnings report.

This is just the type of reporting and mindlessness that makes the whole lot of us look bad. It's really awful stuff.

But, beyond that, for the sake of argument let's say Forbes is right -- there's something horribly alarming happening here -- and Facebook is wrong -- there's nothing to see here -- does it really matter?

Other than making for a nice headline and a hysterical, even if not entirely accurate, article, I don't think it does.

First, the media -- and some factions of traders and investors -- should learn from the way it handled Facebook's mobile advertising problem. The company could not have been more transparent about what happened. In September 2012's Facebook: A $100 Stock by 2014 If Not Sooner, I laud Zuckerberg for admitting (proper use of the word there) Facebook missed the desktop to mobile transition.

On that news, FB stock dropped for all of a week before beginning its steady march past $50. As an aside, I stand by my $100 prediction, but, please allow me the luxury of removing the "if not sooner" part.

Anyhow, there never was any reason for alarm over what was a very correctable, short-term problem.

Learn from history and, while it's not the same situation as the mobile advertising one, don't blow this teen usage talk out of proportion like everybody else.

First, if this ends up being a problem, it's unlikely to impact Facebook's revenue (or profit) for a long, long time. Advertisers want 18-to-34-year-olds as well nearby demos such as 18 to 49 and 25 to 54. If younger teens aren't using Facebook all that much, it means nothing to the social network's staying power with advertisers for years to come.

So why would you worry -- or sell the stock -- on something that's unlikely to come home to roost, if it even ever does, for years? It makes absolutely no sense.

But, really, who cares what teens -- and, again, it's important to be accurate and specific here by saying "younger teens" -- are doing with Facebook? Not only will it have little, if any, impact on Facebook's advertising business, it's not a reliable predictor of what younger teens will do as they enter the aforementioned attractive demos.

The beauty of Facebook is that it's a daily habit because of how it connects people. There has never been a platform that keeps old friends in touch with one another and provides constant updates for, say, grandparents on what their grandchildren are up to. Laugh all you want, but this -- and the other functions Facebook serves -- are incredibly powerful.

With or without your average snot-nosed, too-cool-for-school 14-year-old awkward boy with acne, this fact and the attendant attractiveness for advertisers to be part of the mix remains.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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