Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Why Gen Y's not into Twitter?
The bottom line: "We have everything we need on Facebook," says Gen Y CNET blogger Sharon Vaknin - though, despite an insightful post, she's pretty hard on her generation. First the numbers: She cites a recent Pace University/ Participatory Media Network study showing that 99% of 18-to-24-year-olds have social network profiles while only 22% use Twitter. Then she offers a little history on Gen Y's migration from creative expression to status updates. "We no longer impress our friends with profiles that represent us through our creative flourishes, but rather with profiles that spell out what we're doing.... What Facebook intends as a forum for sharing, Gen Yers see as a game of show-off." She cites examples of author and psychologist Jean Twenge's "narcissism epidemic" among her peers. "We do anticipate seeing our friends' activities, but what we really look forward to is what they think of our activities - we want to be 'cyberstalked,' preferably in the form of replies to our self-published content." So why not Twitter? Her reasons illustrate two important differences from FB: 1) Twitter, she says, is too one-dimensional, too text-y (e.g., "Sally went to a great party last weekend, but where are the photos? Who went with her?"), and 2) "updates on Twitter happen so fast there really isn't time to react ... my friends don't have time to react to my activities." I think the latter point is about how fleeting tweeting is, compared to status updates in Facebook, which stay until one replaces them. Twitter is like a real-time, ongoing, multi-person conversation - more like back chat in an online presentation, where people just put tweets "out there" without necessarily expecting anything to come back. It's a little like comparing apples and oranges, because a Facebook profile functions so differently - it's as much a representation of a person's social network as a person, which seems to be the greatest appeal for youth. Vaknin's conclusion may say more about how she feels about her generation than about Gen Y itself: "Largely as a result of the digital communication tools on which we were raised, a big part of my generation wants to know what the cyberworld thinks of us, and we want its inhabitants to pay attention to us." Here's more on this from author and youth tech consultant Derek Baird at BarkingRobot.