Tag Archives for teens
A while ago, Danah Boyd posted what I thought was a fascinating look at how an 18-year-old she knows was using Facebook and Twitter. According to him, “fb [Facebook] is everybody.” Since all your friends (and your so-called-friends, and people you don’t really know that well, and people who you don’t like that much) are on Facebook, the teens that he knows end up using Twitter to make private groups, with locked updates, to chat and share things online. This way, they can stay connected with a smaller group and not have to share things with the ever-increasing everybody-ness of Facebook.
Now Facebook and RWW are reporting some numbers that show high school and college students are dropping like flies, while mom-and-pop-types are joining up in droves. I suppose we’ve all known about the older demographic growth for a while but the drop off of younger users is new, and, one can only imagine for the ad-driven business, alarming.
These numbers coincide with Facebook’s recent push for increased publicity of status messages and posted items. They are pushing hard for users to become more public, even in the face of losing their younger users, who, according to Boyd’s isolated case anyway, seem to be seeking a way to be more private. With Mom and Dad (or Grandma) friending you on Facebook, and your status being made public by the powers-that-be, I can’t think of an easier recipe for discouraging young users from continuing their presence on Facebook.
The Mashable post linked above makes a salient point: Facebook’s core demographic “fell in love with Facebook because it helped them better connect with friends, not with strangers.” And for me, this point holds as well. I remarked upon reading Boyd’s post that had had an opposite experience with Facebook and Twitter than her teen friend had. Since my Twitter feed is open, Twitter, for me, is everybody. Facebook is only for those who I approve.
Even if that is the case for me, we don’t need another Twitter, just like we don’t need a myriad of other services to replicate one another. What we do need is to encourage the creation of safe spaces for teens to interact with one another online without the fear of being “watched” and without having to break their backs to feel a reasonable sense of privacy.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall, though, so it will be interesting to see how Facebook’s demographics and user satisfaction surveys stand up to these latest developments, and whether a thoughtful consideration of teen users (and their information behavior) will be lost in the shuffle.
Boyd’s writing was very enlightening to read, I thought. First of all, it was intersting to see the world of social networks broken down and explained in a rational and methodological way. Moreover, the social impacts of this new style of technological interaction, which are indeed present and undeniable in a colloquial sense, need to be explained in a way that is digestible by many people. It was great reading both her blog post on the social strata delinieated by Facebook and MySpace, and it was even more enlightening to read the response that she posted subsequently in which she addressed the critical (and otherwise) reponses that that blog post generated.
Understanding how social networks impact society is a fascinating topic for me, becuase it would be so easy to dismiss social media as a whole, or part by part, as a fad. In spite of the transitory nature of many individual services, it is clear that interaction mediated by social computing can no longer be viewed in that sense (even though it continues to be by some).
It is imperative now for research following Boyd’s methods to be continued, if only to explain or at the very least identify how people are interacting in the new social milieu online. Because it is becoming such an essential part of life for so many (myself included) it requires study if the mandates of sociologists and psychologists and computer scientists (and philosophers and semioticians, not to mention librarians) everywhere are going to be fulfilled.
I have sensed the social boundaries surrounding the division that Boyd highlights between MySpace and Facebook. Though I guess I don’t feel that I would have fit entirely into the category that she places around hegemonic teens (or would have when I was a teenager), the demarcation lines she draws are at most problematic, but at the least revealing or enlightening. Taking her post with the large grain of salt that she offers before the first paragraph, the importance and relevance of her writing can be understood.
For librarians in particular, understanding the modes and venues for teens’ and young adults’ online social lives is required to plan and create effective and safe programming that encourages social behavior, while creating boundaries that can ensure safety and positive outcomes from social networking. Not “getting” what is happening for teens online may lead to a withdrawl from the generally positive nature of social netowrking, and lead to harmful or risky behavior. I believe that it is within the mandate of librarians to ensure unfettered access to information, but it is resonable and should be expected that librarians can at a minimum make known and encourage the benefits of that information that can lead its fulfilling use. Without that, the library is just a building with free internet.