Maybe we’re too obsessed with teenagers

A teenager wrote about how teens use social media and it’s fascinating. It’s based off his experiences and observations of peers, so perhaps the sample size is limited, but it’s well written and insightful in connecting human psyche to products. It’s worth a read, and if you’d like the TL:DR here it is…

  • Nobody really shares on Facebook, but it’s weird to not be on it
  • Everyone is on Instagram — it’s a high quality experience
  • Few understand Twitter
  • Teens like Snapchat because they can be themselves, they don’t really care about privacy or security
  • Tumblr is about anonymity
  • Yik Yak is great for schools and maybe not elsewhere
  • Women use Pinterest

One thing I do wonder about is the premise of the article — the fascination the tech punditry have about teenagers, their behavior and what products they use. Knowing what teens like is good data of course, because they tend to be early adopters and can signal what everyone else will eventually use; moreover, they’ll grow older and eventually comprise the mass market.

However, their importance in the grand scheme of things is a little exaggerated. Teen obsession doesn’t always translate into to adult obsession. Off the top of my head: Pokémon, One Direction, Cancun and existential angst.

These social networks are probably linked to life stages. The same teens who are obsessed with getting the latest gossip from their classmates in Yik Yak may not care as much when they are working full-time jobs and raising a family.

The teens who are reticent to share to Facebook may do so more as adults. You care less about who sees what — because the photos you’re posting are all boring holiday and baby photos anyway — and more about reaching as many friends and yes, even relatives as possible.

In fact, a recent study from Pew Research Center showed that Facebook’s engagement is actually up. As Forbes analyzed:

Users are visiting Facebook more frequently, and staying on the site longer. The Pew study found that 70 percent of Facebook users engage with the site daily—up from 63 percent in 2013. By comparison, the percentage of Instagram and Pinterest users who engage with those social networks did not change significantly from the previous year.

Some of that growth is driven by, gasp, older adults, but it’s strange to see that negatively. Sometimes, teens need to zig where adults zag, and that’s just fine.

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