Monday, February 08, 2010

Twitter v IM: a micro-reflection

Donald Clark shared via his Facebook status that "while 7 out of 10 teens use social networking websites like Facebook, only 1 in 12 teens use Twitter - Pew Internet and American Life Project - survey middle of last year 12-17 year olds."

I located said report and found it interesting reading. You might, too, if your life includes teenagers.

One caveat I found quite telling was that "the question wording for teens is quite different from how the question was posed to adults so the results are not strictly comparable."

That said, it seems that only 8% of online American teens use Twitter, while the figure for adults is 19%. It should be noted, however, that the figure for adults varies hugely across different age bands, showing a steady decline from the 37% of 18-24 year olds to just 4% of those over the age 65. So it seems that between their 17th and 18th birthdays, American teenagers experience the sudden urge to make the shift to Twitter. I wonder why? The report suggests that it "may be partially due to our question wording capturing status updates on social networking sites."

But enough of that, I wanted to focus on the 'only 8% of all teens' bit.

My own teenagers are avid users of instant messaging and have been for several years, now. Their usage patterns would not be supported by Twitter.

For example:

  • They use a lot of emoticons
  • They use extensive font formatting
  • They frequently use more than 140 characters per message
  • They conduct huge numbers of 1:1 conversations simultaneously, sharing private thoughts they would never dream of sharing in a single, multi-user stream (connected in parallel, rather than in series?)
  • They change their user names often, using these as a mini status to reflect their mood, their (frequently) changing romantic status or a significant event in their lives
  • They use web cams as part of their conversations (and some parents would be appalled to know some of the uses to which their teenagers put these cameras!)
Of course, this is just a single snapshot, based on my observations of my own sons and their friends, and does not constitute research. But I throw my snapshot into the pool to be aggregated with the rest of the fragments.

Graeme Duncan suggests (on Donald's FB page) "My hypothesis is kids use these media as communication tools but like it to be network building and relationship building. Twitter is a broadcast media not a two way communication channel whilst FB, MSN, etc etc are profile builders and also communication channels."

I have to say that I use Twitter to engage in conversations with people. Many of my messages start with @someone-or-other. But Donald has a view on that, too, to wit: "Spot on Graeme - Twitter is boomeresque (new word!) in that it plays to our need to either receive or transmit, not share and engage in dialogue. Even on Facebook, we're the exception to the rule -far too many boomers simply post their own entries and don't respond - you two [that would be Graeme and me] are very much the exceptions."

I'm trying to decide whether to forgive him for calling me a "boomer". I'm too young for that label, and he should know it ;o)


V Yonkers said...

Interesting. Having two teens (one boy and one girl a bit younger than your boys) in the US, I would have to say that their habits are the same as your kids. The idea of twitter or even the status is not as important on FB as sharing photos, public jokes, but also "aside" interaction on what's going on.

The only use for Twitter for them, that I could see would be to find out missing homework assignments! (or parties when the parents go out unexpectedly). However, as many access facebook on their cell phones, and many of the broadcasting can be done on FB, I think they would wonder why twitter? it's just one more app.

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers My kids hardly ever used Facebook. They're dedicated users of MSN.

V Yonkers said...

Can they access MSN on their cells/mobile devises? I think MSN, because of its joint partnership with one of the major television networks in the US, has never had the popularity that it does in Europe. It would be like using a BBC site.

The upsycho said...

@v_Yonkers theoretically, yes, but they've never bothered. They use their phones for texts and stick to their laptops for msn.