Teens Who Won’t Tweet

We’ve all heard that teens don’t usually Tweet, and a 16-year old guest writing for the Read-Write Web explains that this generalization is true. Like a few of us older adults, many teens have rejected Tweeting…but not for the same reason.

“Teens’ lives are entirely built around their actual friends. Quite simply, why would teenagers bother using Twitter when Facebook exists, and offers so much more? Teens want a platform that allows easy, fully-functional communication to an exclusive social circle. That is, solely to their friends and peers. Twitter is a platform built for inclusive broadcast (to everyone), and to teenagers it offers no obvious value.”

Hmm. Apparently many teens are unaware of the privacy settings in Twitter so that you DON’T broadcast to everyone (kind of the way Facebook has it). But wait, there’s more…

“Can you think of some reasons as to why your average Twitter user keeps tweeting? Self-promotion and the ability to follow interests immediately come to mind.

Now let’s compare these reasons against the reasons teenagers use social networks: They use them to extend their real social connections onto the Internet, so that their social lives can continue with a larger group of friends, even when they can’t physically be with all of them at once. Self-promotion isn’t a high priority for most teens as they don’t have professional lives to think about, and the interests that they have are fed to them by their real friends.”

Say what? Author Michael Moore Jones is clearly very intelligent and well-spoken, but clearly has missed what MY Twitter experience has been. Back when Twitter hit my radar, the only people you could Tweet too WERE your friends and family. It’s true that people were broadcasting in public (and not in a good way), but there were no celebrites except John Edwards and Darth Vader, and there were NO corporate newsfeeds.

Today it’s very different. As danah boyd pointed out at the Symposium last year, many teens associate Twitter with Ashton Kutcher and celebrity newsfeeds found on People.com’s Tweet Ticker (lower left). And of course CNN and other news agencies (once I knew Fox News had gone to Twitter, I knew it would be with us for the foreseeable future.

I mean no disrespect to Mr Moore (in fact, I applaud his honest reaction to Twitter), but his experience of Twitter is very slanted…kind of like most adult’s experience with texting and Facebook is very slanted. In both cases, an audience has been exposed to the “worst” a service has to offer, partly through mass media coverage without realizing the other benefits and features that are out there.

By the way, I am not advocating that teens need to abandon Facebook, but I do think it’s ironic that I, as a former Twitterphobe, have become more literate in a recent Web 2.0 technology than those a generation younger than me. Irony…such sweet irony.

Postscript – Dec 9

In the reply article Who Uses Twitter? Not My Techie, 30-Something Friends, author Mike Melanson points to a recent Pew survey on Twitter usage which reports that only 8% of adults overall use Twitter (although the figure is 14% for the 18-29 bracket, and I am still 29 myself).

Interestingly though the rate is higher among Hispanics (18%) and African Americans (13%) than among whites (5%). There is also a relatively high urban percentage (11%) than rural (5%) or suburban (11%). Part of this may lie in the fact that Twitter began as a text (SMS) to Web service. And SMS is actually taiilored for users with good cell phone service, but not necessarily ready access to a traditional computer. Similarly SMS is quite popular outside the U.S. where it is dirt cheap.

If you check the Twitter trending topics on any given day, I bet you will find 1-2 two topics that are actually in Spanish or Portuguese (Brazil!). Today Twitter told me that soccer star Sergio Bernal is retiring and that Copa Sul-America (Port) or the South American Soccer Cup was in progress. Even the death of “John Lenon” was a hot topic in the Latin world.

¿Quién sabía? (Who knew?)

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1 Response to Teens Who Won’t Tweet

  1. MATTHEW N MEYER says:

    It seems twitter simply has an image issue with the young ‘ens. It doesn’t matter what they can actually do with the tool; the only thing that matters is what they THINK of the tool. Much like Chrysler’s challenge in recent years; the reality is that their cars are much improved and competitive but the image is…well, it’s a Chrysler. For many, the word alone causes immediate dismissal. The difference between Twitter and Chrysler is that Chrysler is paying millions to Madison Avenue to change the thinking. Twitter has…Aston Kucher?

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