, 28 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
A few quick things I've learned recently from interviewing people about social media, which has been super interesting.
(1) Twitter is basically just viewed as a place to read things and keep up with the news. "It’s almost kind of weird to follow friends on Twitter - in my experience. It’s not a social network for people who know each other"
(2) Facebook is a place where your family and people over thirty talk to each other. Older people express concern about privacy and stuff but can't be bothered to move.
(3) In the US if you're a WhatsApp user it's often because you want to talk to people abroad who are using it all the time.
(4) The network that people under thirty care about over any other is Instagram - stories are a huge deal and basically since they got them, everyone stopped using Snapchat.
(A lot of this is pretty obvious, and it's also mostly the result of a bunch of interviews, rather than exhausting statistics, but it's stuff I've found interesting)
(5) The main way that everyone talks to everyone in the world is through SMS or iMessage, with secondarily platforms like Facebook Messenger and stuff being a big deal.
(6) A really surprising number of tech literate people under thirty are focused on small-group tools and tools for contained friend groups rather than big public stuff.
(7) Absolutely everyone is creeped out by Facebook to a smaller or greater extent, and many politically engaged younger people on Instagram hate that Facebook own it.
(8) Absolutely everyone is carefully organizing their online identities, using different tools for different groups of people in ways that stop them overlapping.
(9) Younger generations are *far* more savvy about the content on social media and on how to manage their identities and the implications of them than older people.
(10) In fact, some younger people are explicitly worried about the effect of social media on their parents along the lines of the "I lost my uncle to Fox News" meme.
(11) One thing that really surprised me was the amount of times people in their twenties were telling me about the horror stories about social media that were drilled into them at school...
... along the lines of 'don't post anything on social media that you wouldn't want a future employer to see', which a lot of people cited as a reason for being much more careful and knowledgeable about how they post information online than other generations.
I wonder a bit if twenty-somethings at the moment are going to have a kind of behavior online that is radically different from the generation before and after - much like my generation, which came of age during early HIV panic probably had different culturation around sex.
(12) People don't post things on social media for all the reasons you'd expect - fear of starting a fight, not wanting a collision with family members with different politics, because they want to present themselves well, concern about jobs...
... but some of the reasons are just really sad - and for a number of young women the reasons are exactly what you'd expect - they're being harassed or mocked or embarrassed or attacked for being out in public and pushed out of the public sphere.
I've heard the same stuff from LGBT people and people of color - and it's not unfamiliar from my own experience, but I'm a battle-hardened old scarred killer whale in a pretty safe place and many of these people aren't.
Going right back to the beginning, and just leaping in with a personal position, I think the change of Twitter from a personal communicative space to a news-focused space is something I think has been a real mistake.
I think Flickr got this right years and years ago and organizations have to relearn it every so often - the best online spaces are ones that support different kinds of engagement that cross-support one another.
I think Instagram has got this balance best at the moment - it's a place which supports personal communication and sharing and deep emotional bonds as well as following celebrities and trends and organizations.
The two support each other. It doesn't *generally* feel too toxic, there's always something heart-warming and supportive and interesting.
Whereas with Twitter, they pushed it all in one direction and it worked for a while for stats, but it damaged some of the social fabric, connectivity, mutual support and emotional connection.
There's always at least two ways to read stats, and my suspicion is people at Twitter looked at the consumption stats and decided it wasn't a 1-2-1 social space, but a media consumptive one.
And the could have looked at it and said instead that they weren't investing enough in the 1-2-1 social space and that things had got out of balance, and I think we'd have a much healthier space today if they'd done that.
End of long, weird thread. Thank very much for your patience.
(I should add there are a lot of generalizations in this thread, it’s not supposed to be a statistical report, and the audience was diverse but definitely weighted younger and more tech savvy than the general public.)
(Lots of people in the world use Snapchat but *all* of my interviewees that used it reported giving it up or using it far less in favor of Instagram stories. That felt significant to me.)
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