Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.

Teens and Social Media, Or, Adult Regression

The ever-fascinating Pew Internet & American Life Project issued a report on how young adults use social media and it turns out that teens don’t really use blogging or Twitter. They tend to eschew these for social networks, especially Facebook.

I’ve had a theory on why this might be so, and I got to test it with the experts themselves last week while I was speaking at Fordham to Dr. Lance Strate‘s undergraduate Social Media class.

My theory, which they backed up, is that these avenues for communication are superfluous for them.

Teens don’t find benefit in blogging because their groups are already local and chatty. For long diatribes, they have the lunch table, the bus, the mall, the dorm. They don’t need a digital platform.

And teens don’t use Twitter because their lives are just too insular at that point. First, they don’t share news stories. (Remember how our teachers all despaired at how infrequently we kept up with news?) And second, most teens just don’t care what the world thinks. They just want a conversation with their peer group, and while Twitter microblogging doesn’t provide that, Facebook microblogging (status updates) does.

So as a corollary to this theory…

(because yes, not only do I have a theory, I have a corollary. …I know. Anyway.)

…I believe adults use blogging and Twitter to get back that closely interconnected peer group. Remember what a shock it was to leave school and the security of having that group available to you around the clock? It’s a massive change. You’re still around people, but you’re not going through the same experiences with people just like you any more. You may have roommates, family, partners, bosses, colleagues, but you probably don’t have that “class” experience again.

If I were a sociologist, I could probably relate this back to tribal belonging and Dunbar’s number. But I’m not. Can you?

Edited to add: semi-related to this post, I just guest posted over at Robin Ferrier‘s What’s Next, Gen Y? with “A Reality Check for Soon-to-be-Grads” about what’s really different when you leave school. Let me know what you think.

Comments

Sarah Morgan

We do stare at a screen for 8 (…9…10…) hours a day, that’s true. But that recent Kaiser Foundation survey found that kids are spending 7 1/2 hours a day in front of screens, actually adding up to 11 hours if you count each screen individually while they’re multitasking. So even if I work all day, a 16-year-old may have more screen time than me! Mind-boggling thought.

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by sarahmorgan: Do we use Twitter to recapture our youth? http://bit.ly/b1A17P

Robin F

Great insight! I think the “educational” aspect of Twitter can’t be minimized, and it would make sense as to why more teens/college students aren’t using it.

I’d also argue that once you’re in the “working world,” you’re attached to your computer more, and that makes you more likely to more thoroughly utilize some of these tools as well.

Sarah Morgan

Exactly, Ty – you don’t need the digital connection when you have the physical one. Stop me before I quote Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”…. Fordham really did brainwash me!

Sarah Morgan

Larry, that’s extra flattering, coming from you. Thank you so much!

Ty

I was in London a few weeks ago with my old group of friends, and didn’t log into Twitter the entire time, not that I didn’t have the chance to, I just had no reason to. You are spot on with this Sarah!

Larry Husten

Very insightful, Sarah. Welcome back to cyberspace.

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