What teens say about the tech world

by on January 4, 2013 at 7:11 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

I enjoyed this piece, full of fresh (to me) perspectives.  Here is one excerpt:

She had almost nothing to say about Twitter because she didn’t know anyone in high school that used it. “Nobody uses it. I know you love it but I don’t get it. I mean, I guess a a few kids use it but they’re all the ones who won’t shut up in class, who always think they have something important to say.”

The follow-up to that is good too.

For the pointer I thank Elan Bachor.

1 Rahul January 4, 2013 at 7:30 am

I liked this one:

“When you go on Facebook Chat the people you don’t want to talk to are always the ones who immediately chat with you”

2 Derek January 4, 2013 at 7:48 am

Maybe the whole thing can be summed up as “the best is where the people I like hang out”. Not too different from my time when Facebook would be the cafeteria, but instagram was the south lobby where all the cool kids went to smoke.

And the awkward young lad has all the latest hardware but gets blocked or ignored.

3 Rich Berger January 4, 2013 at 7:43 am

Sic transit gloria mundi.

4 Benny Lava January 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

I read a survey a year ago that said teens rarely use twitter and mocked my twitter using friends as using grandpa medium. At what age do people start using twitter? 20? 30?

5 cthorm January 4, 2013 at 9:57 am

For WASPs, 25-30. Whenever you’re sufficiently disconnected from your school social circles and begin having professional ambitions. In other words: when you have something to say.

6 IVV January 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

…and don’t need to listen?

Perhaps it’s my lack of sales acumen, but I still struggle for finding a use for twitter.

7 Andreas Moser January 6, 2013 at 3:34 am

I don’t see the need for getting Twitter either: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/should-i-get-a-twitter/

8 Turkey Vulture January 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

I’m 28 and graduated law school in the spring. I’ve never used Twitter and don’t know anyone who regularly uses it, though maybe they do and just have never mentioned it. I’ve long thought it was for old people who thought it was something the kids use these days, even though they don’t.

9 cthorm January 4, 2013 at 11:10 am

“I’ve never used Twitter and don’t know anyone who regularly uses it, though maybe they do and just have never mentioned it. ”

This is a good observation. Unlike other social media, users likely interact with people they follow/are followed by very rarely offline. My wife didn’t even know I’m active on twitter until I got in some hot water for it at work (challenging the boss is ‘bad for the brand’ apparently, though I couldn’t disagree more).

10 Brett January 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I follow a bunch of people on Twitter, but don’t post anything other than responses to other people’s tweets (I’m 24).

11 Alex' January 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

I use twitter, but I’ve never posted anything myself and don’t follow any friends. I just use it as a real time news and commentary feed.

12 cthorm January 4, 2013 at 11:03 am

I think most people lurk. I participate pretty heavily in economics/finance news, monetary policy, and bond markets (I work at a large fixed income investment firm). Twitter is an excellent place to get interesting links. It’s also a very good way to cross-promote your interests. I’m very interested in energy policy and nuclear technologies, and so I’ll share content on those topics with people that know me from my specialties (and thus have some credibility).

13 F. Lynx Pardinus January 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

The hard part is differentiating between things today’s teens (do/don’t) use now and will (continue to/never) use, and things today’s teens (do/don’t use) now but will switch (from/to) as they grow up.

14 Richard January 4, 2013 at 9:09 am

Well put. Can we extrapolate that Bieber is the future of all music? Or just the future of music for some teens?

15 Slocum January 4, 2013 at 9:20 am

Yes — there’s an implicit assumption in the tech industry that whatever teens are doing now is what adults will be doing soon (and conversely that whatever teens reject as old fashioned is doomed).

16 Alexei Sadeski January 4, 2013 at 9:08 am

I’m confused on the final point in the article: ‘They want a FaceTime alternative that isn’t expensive to use.’

Is not FaceTime completely free, and are not there several completely free alternatives as well?

17 Dangerman January 4, 2013 at 10:02 am


18 Urso January 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

“Expensive” not in terms of money, but in terms of phone data. And that usage may itself represent some fundamental difference in the way that generation views the world. Or it may not.

19 dead serious January 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

Does FaceTime eat through plan minutes? I don’t use it.

20 Ed January 4, 2013 at 9:10 am

There is a huge amount of hype, generated by adults, about social media and its too early to tell which platforms will really have staying power. The article is really anecdotal, but the information that actual teenagers aren’t into the social media platforms they are supposed to be into is not surprising.

21 Rich Berger January 4, 2013 at 9:20 am

This is a demographic that produces very little, basically living off their parents (or Obama). This is how they spend their leisure time – these are not productive activities. I would not be taking technical advice from this group.

22 Guest January 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

This is such brilliant insight. Teenagers produce nothing and live of their parents. Bravo. You are almost at Tyler Cowen level of savant.

23 Little John January 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Let the troll be.

24 axa January 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm

hahahahaha, technical advice? it wasn’t an discussion about C sharp or Python, it was just an opinion on twitter usage. where’s the technical part?

25 Therapsid January 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

Who cares what social media contemporary teenagers use? Today’s youth are the least creative in living memory. When was the last youth sub-culture created? The early 2000’s for hipsters at the very latest, so at least a decade ago.

26 Rahul January 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

There is typically a lag between sub-culture creation an recognition.

Hasn’t almost every generation complained about it’s youth?

27 JWatts January 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

I think you are right on both accounts.

28 Turkey Vulture January 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

Yeah. Kids these days. No respect.

29 Dan Weber January 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Twenty-somethings these days don’t know how to complain about teenagers!

30 Joshua Lyle January 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Hipsters are the permanent youth subculture, because we’re living in the end of history.

31 Mark Thorson January 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

Usenet newsgroups have been going strong for over 30 years. They offer the best parts of social media without loading spyware on your computers or erecting paywalls.

32 mkt January 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Which newsgroups do you read? The ones that I used to read became infested with spam posts, and between the spammers and the trolls, got abandoned for blogs, online forums, and initially even email listservs. There’s only one that I still read. The others all became dead except for the spam/trolls. The predictions of the upcoming “Death of the internet! Film at 11” turned out to be true, for the newsgroups that I used to read.

33 Mark Thorson January 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I read quite a few, mostly technical. Spam has increased over the years, but it’s manageable. The highest volume newsgroup I read is rec.food.cooking. The only newsgroup I read that has really fallen down badly in quality is sci.chem. Sci.materials is a good substitute for that one. Comp.arch has stayed mostly the same or even improved over the last couple of decades, but it’s very specialized in computer architecture.

Any good browser that supports newsgroups makes skipping the trash quite simple. Requiring a certain level of expertise to access Usenet has kept out a lot of the riff-raff, which doesn’t seem to be the case with social media websites. On the whole, the people who use newsgroups seem to be quite a bit older and more tech savvy.

34 Rahul January 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

Tech newsgroups have fared better than the others.

35 Dangerman January 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

Clearly the best line is:

“I’m not really interested in anything yet.”

Truly the demographic shaping technology trends…

36 j r January 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

There is something so interesting at that line. I wasn’t interested in much at that age either, but I certainly wasn’t aware of the fact that I wasn’t interested in anything.

37 Urso January 4, 2013 at 10:08 am

I’ve been saying this since 2008 or so. Twitter is for old people and NPR newscasters. It has *never* been popular among young people.

Although this last fall I finally found a (narrow) use for it – real time analysis of football games. There are people on twitter whose football expertise is leaps and bounds ahead of anything you get on espn.

38 IVV January 4, 2013 at 10:18 am

Okay, THAT’s a use that makes sense to me! Now only if I were into sports…

39 Jacob January 4, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Yeah, I recently started using Twitter for this very reason. Real time analysis of NFL games and discussion of upcoming NFL Draft prospects.

40 Foobarista January 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm

yup – I was watching a football twitter during the oregon/kstate game last week, and a few seconds into the conversion play that ended up being a “one-point safety” (which had previously occurred exactly once in the history of college football), people were tweeting that the play should be a “one-point safety”. They even beat the officials on the field, who took a couple minutes to sort it out.

41 Robert Easton January 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

So the guy feels old because he used facebook chat and twitter when he was a kid and his younger sister doesn’t? I don’t know what the rest of us are supposed to feel if that makes him old.

42 Ted Craig January 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

My daughter and her friends use Twitter all the time. Once again, there’s a difference between real trends and what people a reporter gets ahold of say.

43 joshua January 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

This post should be titled “What one teen says about the tech world”

44 mtc January 4, 2013 at 10:17 am

Why are we supposing you’d hear anything different about Twitter from people in other demographics? I think if you’re involved in media and entertainment you might perceive ‘everyone’ is using Twitter, and find it novel when someone, especially a young person, suggests otherwise, but I’d suspect among any age group of average folks you’d hear it frequently reported ‘nobody’ use Twitter. There’s gotta be some numbers of Twitter user demographics. Like some weird guy in a TED talk once said, don’t trust stories.

45 Justin January 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

I’m a high school teacher, and I can assure you that at least half the students in my school use twitter – a lot!

46 rpl January 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

my takeaway: There is a huge variety of social networking platforms with largely overlapping capabilities. Which one any particular demographic group uses is pretty arbitrary and has more to do with what their friends are using than with any inherent characteristics of the platforms, and it tends to change a lot as everybody migrates to the new “in” place to be. Also, if you’re over 25, teenagers think you are impossibly old and out of touch.

I guess that’s interesting as far as it goes, but I really don’t understand the obsession with what teens think. I was pretty clueless when I was that age, as were virtually all of my peers. Why should today’s teens be any different than we were? Moreover, teens’ technology habits are greatly informed by their enormous surfeit of free time. In that circumstance, the fact that something is a complete time-waster is a feature not a bug.

47 F. Lynx Pardinus January 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

“There is a huge variety of social networking platforms with largely overlapping capabilities. ”

In my mind, the proprietary, closed world of social networking is a significant weakness. When I want to send someone an email, it doesn’t matter to me what mail server that person uses. But if I want to see what someone is up to, I have to figure out which service the person is on, join that service, friend/follow them, and continue to check the site regularly. I understand it’s by design, but I still think it’s somewhat lame compared to the internet protocols of the past.

48 rpl January 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

Agreed. And if you want to communicate something to them you have to post it to all of those services. If you’re lucky, you can find a tool to copy the post to all of them, but incompatibilities (such as twitter’s character limit) and deliberate barriers erected by the services themselves mean that you usually have to do some reposting. And, of course, your contacts that are on several of the platforms may not appreciate seeing the same content several times. As you say, it’s a little lame.

49 careless January 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

AIM, ICQ, MSN, etc. Been like that forever (although there have been moves inn the last ten years to get them to communicate)

50 IVV January 4, 2013 at 11:25 am

I’m surprised at the author’s surprise about the picture-only Tumblr. I mean, even the words are actually pictures of words. And very few people actually add content–you get more content from icanhascheezburger.

What shocks me the most, though, is the entire non-mention of reddit.

51 Joshua Lyle January 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

“What shocks me the most, though, is the entire non-mention of reddit.”

I’m guessing a significant part of that is due to gender demographics.

52 Doug January 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

You can post text to tumblr.

53 oon2ooo January 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

What appears to be missing is an analysis of whether or not this girl fits into the “popular girl” category. These people have limited use for social networking because they are the center of the social network in high school. So it would not be surprising finding these results if this was the case.

Popular people are not the majority (they are a very small subgroup of individuals), and trying to infer technology trends from popular kids preferences in high school seems like a bad plan. It is true that popular kids set trends, but I do not think that is the case with technology as much as fashion, language, attitudes, etc.; especially with regards to social networks, but perhaps not some of these other communication services like snapchat and facetime.

Now if this girl is representative of the average teenager, I think this would be a very interesting anecdotal snapshot. Also, we are lacking the male perspective here, possibly totally different (especially with things like twitter which seems to be male dominated).

54 R Richard Schweitzer January 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

From the link:

“Learning from past mistakes, I took some time over the holiday break to ask my sister many, many questions about how ** her** and her friends **are using** technology. ”

Great opening – **her** [is or] are using?

55 Brett January 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

The Twitter non-existence is no surprise. I’ve read polls showing that the people using it tend to be older than 25, with teens and young adults being much less likely to use it (or at least to report it).

I can’t find the survey, but I remember reading one a while back that showed that young teens were pretty skilled at managing their private information on the web, and much less likely to make the embarrassing mistakes on social media that people my age are prone to (late teens/early 20s).

56 Vernunft January 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Twitter is indeed a vibrant medium.

57 anonymous... January 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

This is a classic case of the fallacy of “out-group homogeneity“: apparently all teenagers are alike. It’s funny, I seem to remember all sorts of different cliques in the high school cafeteria, with exaggeratedly differentiated habits and practices.

This is hardly the first time that a single teenager has been held up as a spokesperson for their entire age cohort. Indeed, CEOs sometimes make major project decisions based on a single conversation with some child relative, and are quite open about saying so, proud of the insights they imagine they have gleaned.

If, instead, they said “I ran it by my unemployed brother-in-law and he didn’t like it, so let’s throw out months of work and change course”, the ludicrousness would be a little more self-evident. No one would imagine that to be anything other than an individual opinion.

58 Carlos January 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Good to know. But i am not 100% sure about if that it is true.

59 SD Native January 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I emailed this article to my 15-year-old daughter and her response was “Huh?” She uses Facebook & its chat all the time – it’s the primary way she communicates with her friends. They all have Twitter accounts they use and most have at least one Tumblr. Instagram? not so much. Maybe it’s an East Coast/West Coast difference (my daughter’s in NOVA)?

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