Social Generation Gaps — Why They Exist
What does a 16-year-old, 23-year-old and 31-year-old all have in common?
Working with social media on a daily basis has given me a different outlook on the whole, ‘everyone curates their digital self’ thing. The generational gaps between channels are astounding. Whenever I hear someone mention ‘Snapchat is the new Facebook’, I cringe. But why should I even expect a 16-year old to have the same online presence as myself, a 23-year old?
I sat down with two co-workers in my digital agency to puzzle out some of these questions. Ellery, the 16-year old intern, is an up-and-coming web developer with one of the biggest brains I’ve ever met. Josh, the 31-year-old Client Engagement Manager, has experience in eCommerce focusing on the Magento platform and is a rock-star at pitching. Myself, I’m the Brand and PR Manager of our agency, so social media is my daily juice.
Of course, being immersed in the digital landscape gives us different habits to the average consumer; both on the social platforms we choose to engage with, and how we view our peers’ behaviours. Here’s what I discovered:
Bizarrely (not really…), all three of us use Facebook the most. However, we have different reasons for it being our most ‘liked’.
Ellery: He has every single friend in his life on Facebook. Literally, every one. But most interestingly he expressed “I haven’t turned Facebook chat on for 2 years, texting is just better”. He admits that his friends like to use Facebook chat for total communication, but he just doesn’t agree. “If I want to talk to my friends I’ll just call them. No one I know really does that anymore though”. Ellery finds that his content is curated perfectly to him; he has school class groups with constant reminders to “do my homework — ergh!”
Josh: The first words out of his mouth were: “Facebook is my smoke break”.Josh uses Facebook as his procrastination tool to wipe his brain before a new task. I guess Facebook is pretty good at sucking its prey in, as he grumbles that: “At times I just kind of scroll through, I don’t really look at anything in particular”. Josh mentions that some of his friends post interesting articles, while he keeps either informative or provocative content in his curation.
Me: I mainly keep in contact with my best friends on Facebook. We’ve had a thread running for five years that keeps us up to date with the crazy shenanigans of our daily lives. I got Facebook just as I left high school, meaning I’d already gone through that awkward, ‘nobody knows who I am’ phase of life. I don’t feel the need to define myself through my digital persona, as I feel some of my younger friends do.
__Take home: __ Facebook is a procrastinator, communicator and educator, but does it give us each perfect individual content curation?
We all have Instagram accounts. To varying degrees, we all agree that Instagram is the new Facebook.
Ellery: Ellery is not a big Instagram fan at all. He thinks of it as an, ‘in transit’ social media platform, and can’t really agree with the hype his friends give it. He follows footballers and posts about things like: “if a car crash happens in front of me, I’ll probably put that up”.
Josh: Josh is a frequent poster on Instagram. He enjoys posting about food, friends, locations, “oh and funny things, they’re always good”. It is his favourite social media at the moment, simply for the quality of images produced through filters.
Me: Instagram is my platform of choice at the moment too. I always posted mainly pictorial content on Facebook, so it was an obvious leap for me. My favourite fashion brands and bloggers are what clog my newsfeed — in the best way. I think a ‘picture conveying 1,000 words’ is going to be the social media mantra of the future.
Take home: Pictures are the new words for my generation — and youth (except Ellery) — it seems.
Josh and myself are constantly on Twitter, but Ellery never uses it. The control of served content, or curation, is less substantial on Twitter than other social media platforms.
Ellery: Ellery guiltily revealed, “I only have Twitter because I make websites. Obviously I have to integrate it into site builds, so it’s kind of important for me to know what it does”. However his main point about Twitter reflects back on his generation. He believes that his friends like to entirely control content curation. Any social media which posts content irrelevant to them, like re-tweets, they ignore. The best revelation from our chat was this: ‘People my age are in a bit of a bubble. They’re really self-centered and only want to see content relevant to them.’
Josh: Josh admits the he’s been a bit lazy with Twitter recently due to time constraints, but he has 4 (yes, 4!!!!) separate Twitter accounts. He decides which account to use based on the type of post he wants to send. His account genres are each: professional, silly, absurd and business. Josh decided to curate the delivery of his content this way so his ‘digital persona’ for business would be intact. He worries that Ellery, and other teenagers, are not using social media correctly. He hypothesized that: ‘social media is creating a generation of kids who are self-absorbed. Are they building a persona based on who they’re aspiring to be, not who they are?’
Me: My experience with Twitter is two-fold. I post as our agency and as myself, keeping the two completely separate. I use the agency twitter stream as a large source of news, but my own as a mash-up of fashion, television, movie and theatre content. I like not knowing what will appear in my re-tweeted posts — it gives me new people to follow. This, ironically, is the total opposite of what the youth want in their social media.
Take home: Teenagers are selfish. Twitter should market to teenagers’ selfishness.
None of us really like Snapchat, but we all have one. Should we really have one then? Probably not.
Ellery: He uses it mainly during school to cure boredom in class. It’s interesting that notes are a thing of the past — Snapchat is the new craze. Ellery finds his friends post comedic content to each other, that images are their new ‘favs’.
__Josh and Me: __We both get annoyed when people send us anything, particularly selfies. We should both delete it.
Take home: Kids love Snapchat (except Ellery, again). Adults do not.
Josh and myself are big for the LinkedIn professional network, for obvious reasons. Ellery doesn’t have one at all, for other obvious reasons.
Josh: Josh uses LinkedIn to serve news content on a daily basis. Many of his most interesting reads are from LinkedIn. He uses this platform as a networking tool for his professional and job lifestyle. It is an important platform in his social media cache.
Me: LinkedIn found me my current job! How could I not be loyal to a social media that has given me a great workplace? I use LinkedIn predominantly for connecting to co-workers and presenting myself as a brand ambassador for our agency.
Take home: LinkedIn is important, but mostly for industry professionals.
Mentioned only because Josh and Ellery have zero experience. I, on the other hand, love Tumblr. The sarcastic humour, blogger format and streams of random content are the bomb. Ellery thought it was purely pictures, Josh saw no purpose for it, but I see it as a curation of current social commentaries in a myriad of forms. It’s just fun.
Take home: Maybe I enjoy fun social media too much.
I found it interesting when looking at these huge platforms that one in particular is nearly entirely unrepresented among teenagers. Is Twitter going to be the youth platform of the future, if they can find the right marketing tool? Will Facebook fall down? Honestly right now, social media is so fluid that each generational gap has a different focus. Ellery’s posse loves Snapchat the best (even if he doesn’t), Josh loves Instagram, whereas I’d pick Tumblr as the most entertaining. Could the future look like social media specific to generations? I guess we’ll have to ride the social wave and see which platform, if any, is ultimately timeless.