Remember a few years back, when teenagers left MySpace in droves for this new thing called Facebook? Grown-ups soon followed suit (not that they were ever much on MySpace), and joined Facebook by the hundreds of millions – which made it far less cool for their kids. So where on the Web are teens going now, and what can you learn from them?
A recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 94% of American teens still have a Facebook account, but they’re using it less, and using it more carefully. More than half have tightened down their privacy settings and regularly delete or edit previous posts.
But even with tightened privacy settings, teens have realized that Facebook is more like a family picnic than the private party they want it to be. They still share photos and use Facebook messaging, but they are increasingly turning to newer social networks to fill the function of traditional status updates. So which sites are they using – and why?
While teens do seem to understand privacy much better now than in the early days of social media, they still have a desire to put themselves out there in a public way. And that’s where microblogs like Tumblr and Pheed come in. The culture that has evolved on these sites is more slanted to creative self-expression than Facebook’s life-casting (telling all the mundane details of your day). Both are deeply skewed towards mobile use, and there are tons of clever and thematic blogs, think Texts from Hillary or Reasons My Son is Crying.Neither are particularly teen-oriented, but there are clear differences in style and content between a Tumblr and a Facebook feed.
Twitter saw a doubling of teen users last year. And young people use it more publicly than they do Facebook; while teens with Facebook accounts typically keep their postings private, visible only to their friends, only 24% report keeping their tweets private. Since Twitter feels more instant than Facebook, it’s a good one to consider if your musings are topical and timely.
Increasingly, the hot sites among the younger set create private networks, ones that automatically restrict who can see your updates, like Path, which limits your friend list to 150 people.This built-in privacy makes everything feel more personal – though if you have 151 real-world friends, you’ll just have to choose.
Instagram is pretty good for photo sharing, especially if you like using their funky filters. Teens thought that it great, until mom and dad showed up there, too.
So then came Snapchat, a way to send pics that self-destruct after being viewed. Except that assuming what you send will really disappear is fraught with peril, since the recipient can grab a permanent screen shot of a picture before its deleted. Still, Snapchat is hot – to the tune of 150 million snaps a day – for good reason: it is a fun way to share casual, goofy pics that aren’t meant to signify deep meaning in your life. Just remember that, as with anything you post digitally, “deleting” may not really mean it can’t come back to haunt you.
[Related: True/False: Never Sell Your Old Phone]
If you’re paying as much as $20 a month (or really, any amount over zero) for texting on your phone, think about these alternatives: Kik and WhatsApp have bitten into Facebook messaging, especially here in the US. Globally, services like WeChat in China, KakaoTalk in Korea, and Line in the Middle East and Asia, are all on the rise. Using these services may eat a tiny bit into your data usage, but should enable you to reduce what you spend on your cell phone overall.