Why the kids don’t use Twitter (and other insights on online community)

In case you don’t know of danah boyd – the online communities academic who recently joined Microsoft – you should. She recently made a presentation to her new colleagues which manages to combine a potted history of social media, insights into how adults and youth use them differently, and how society is being shaped by the above. It’s well worth reading in full, but here’s a nugget from the middle act:

“Social media continues to be age-graded. Right now, Twitter is all the rage, but are kids using it? For the most part, no. It’s not the act of creating and sharing social nuggets that’s the issue. Teens are actively using Facebook status update, MySpace bulletins, and IM away messages to share their views on the day and their mood of the moment. So why not Twitter? While it’s possible to make Twitter “private,” the culture of Twitter is all about participation in a large public square. From the digerati seeking widespread attention to the politically minded hoping to appear on CNN, many are leveraging Twitter to be part of a broad dialogue. Teens are much more motivated to talk only with their friends and they learned a harsh lesson with social network sites. Even if they are just trying to talk to their friends, those who hold power over them are going to access everything they wrote if it’s in public. While the ethos among teens is “public by default, private when necessary,” many are learning that it’s just not worth it to have a worrying mother obsess over every mood you seek to convey. This dynamic showcases how social factors are key to the adoption of new forms of social media.”

And to end:

“Specific genres of social media may come and go, but these underlying properties are here to stay. We won’t turn the clock back on these. Social network sites may end up being a fad from the first decade of the 21st century, but new forms of technology will continue to leverage social network as we go forward. If we get away from thinking about the specific technologies and focus on the properties and dynamics, we can see how change is unfolding before our eyes. One of the key challenges is learning how to adapt to an environment in which these properties and dynamics play a key role. This is a systems problem. We are all implicated in it – as developers and policy makers, as parents and friends, as individuals and as citizens.

“Social media is here to stay. Now we just have to evolve with it.”


10 thoughts on “Why the kids don’t use Twitter (and other insights on online community)

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  2. john brandt

    They are also usually not very good at it. I have a couple of high school age kids on my follow list and most of their comments are not very interesting to me or any adult. Their tweets range from “I’m going over to my girlfriends house” to “I hate math.” I suspect that the opposite is also true. But more importantly is that in the high-speed rhetoric that flows among active twits, these young folks rarely have the verbal skills to compete. Their funds of knowledge and experience give them a great disadvantage. I suspect if you asked them they would indicate that they understand relatively little of the conversations that flow around the twitterverse.

  3. Christa Watson

    I’d have to say the reason is, they don’t really have anything to add to the conversation. They are still learning, so I could see if they had an interest in a specific industry it would be beneficial for them to follow the pros, but it’s doubtful anyone would follow them for any great insights. And since the population is a little older, they probably find it hard to relate to anyone. Facebook is fine because everyone already knows each other. I have found in my case, that I meet new people with my same interests on Twitter and on Facebook I pretty much just lurk and keep track of old friends.

    Where I do see younger people becoming invoilved is the increasing amount of celebrity participation. I think this is a way fans might be able to connect with their idols easily. Just my 2 cents.

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