A few weeks back, that monolith of a social network launched Lifestage. Showcased as a way for teenagers to utilize a social network that was a little like Snapchat but also not quite Facebook, Lifestage seems, on the outset, to be quite a cool little tool. But is it? Let’s take a look:
What is Lifestage?
Techcrunch explains it quite well, but simply put, Lifestage is a video-focused profile application that caters for the under 21 market. The app (currently available for iOS only, and only in the US) takes its cue in terms of usability from another of other platforms – users can swipe and block like on Tinder, upload short videos like Snapchat and make use of emoticons and the like. It’s big focus also rests on connecting people with their classmates at school which, if you think about it, is exactly what the very first iteration of Facebook started out doing – connecting university students with each other, using a digital platform. At sign up stage, users select their high school and are instantly invited to connect with other users at their school.
What’s the big deal?
First off, it’s great to note that there’s no direct messaging system built into Lifestage. It’s more of a video biography app, so instead of providing messaging services, the app enables users to link to their other social platforms and messaging services within their profile. Here’s what’s not so great, and we asked Independent Digital Strategist, Philipa Jane Farley, to weigh in on it:
“LifeStage seems to have a very targeted purpose for the Facebook brand. It’s common knowledge that teens won’t go onto Facebook because the older generations have taken it over. My belief is that LifeStage is data mining through picture recognition basically to build up profiles of teens to ensure they have enough data to adapt their services in a short space of time to suit that generation and get an insight into the mindset for the toddlers up and coming. They’ve masked it to make it look fun and exciting with absolutely no concern for privacy or protection of the child besides a nod in the direction of installing a report/block button. Anyone can sign up and just say they’re part of any school and when a school gets unlocked with enough users, the profiles go wider than just that school circle, it seems…at the outset, it looks like Lifestage may be a data mining exercise, masked as a fun app.”
Philipa is not the only one concerned too, as UK online safety campaign, Get Safe Online has emphasized. You can read more about this here. Many users have also highlighted privacy concerns as their primary worry about this new application.
Of course, let’s keep in mind advertising too – because most social networks utilize their audiences for creating channels to directly target advertising towards a desired audience. Take this into account too, where advertisers may be losing out on a captured audience, as more and more TV screens move away from broadcasts and towards streaming services. This report highlights that streaming services are saving children from more than 150 hour of commercial advertising a year. As a parent, this is a big old bonus, because the less advertising I feel my kid is exposed to every day, the better life is. But that means there’ll be new ways to serve advertising to younger markets and, perhaps this is one of them.
Ultimately, whether or not Lifestage becomes a popular network for the youth market, when it comes to privacy concerns, we should all be aware and vigilant. Thankfully, Lifestage is still in its Beta phase, so we remain hopeful that many of the privacy concerns will be addressed before the app rolls out across the globe and across all platforms.