Friday, January 19, 2007

Why teens (heart) MySpace

Dissertation on shifting natures of public life for American youth. Why have social networks become so popular with teens these days?

100 years ago--as of age 14, youth were already part of the working world. (Exceptions were those that could afford to go to High School.)

Head of Households--Labor Unions lobbied congress for compulsary education for minors. High school *myth* for sports teams and proms--schooling system for age segregation.

By 1950s, teens were a particular target demographic. 1941 saw the term "teenager" enter the language, from marketing language/segmentation.

Today we have a highly structured teenage life. Super structured life in regulated environment. After-school activities galore. (No latch-key kids...) Kids stay up all night doing homework--the one reprieve they have with unstructured time is Online.

The reactions of strangers let you know where you are, in the larger context and status. You have to learn what the social cues and norms are. You learn social rules by engaging with strangers--young people are doing the same thing online.

Two populations:
1. those who hold control over them (parents, teachers)
2. those who want to prey on them (marketers, predators)

If these are the only adults you interact with, you don't learn the social cues and norms. Social life has changed dramatically.

Jane Jacobs. Death and life of the Great American City.

Friendster--geeks (bloggers), freaks (burningman), and queers (mostly gay men). Fakester genocide. Musicians and people goofing around (salt, pepper profiles) joined. Friendster kicked off the people not using the system "as they intended it to be used."

MySpace copied Friendster except didn't kick off non-dating profiles. Bands became really popular on MySpace. Bands have fans--fans go on the band profile and use it in unique and interesting ways. Music is the glue of teenage culture in the US. This became a way for teens to learn about new music, a currency.

People realized how to customize their myspace profile: a copy-paste society. Find the right code on someone else's page. Taps into

Teenagers usually Google for MySpace. And then click the first link.

Teens copied a lot of phishing schemes, ads. But it was very powerful to be able to identify your friends. You list a lot of friends who may or may not be actual friends. You're writing your community into being. I want to engage in this world of 900 people--built on the relationship or potential relationship with people.

People get on, and have their own micro-world. Painful, 20-year old version of a yearbook. Comments on myspace created conversation. But people started using myspace comments for casual conversation-but they're being witnessed in the public arena.

Breakups on myspace! Does so publicly on myspace. "I'm going to make sure everyone sees what I said." Making the conversation accountable. See what's being said and by who.

Niche groups throughout myspace with separate patterns. Unique to myspace. Trying to figure out status and boundaries.

* Persistence
* Searchability
* Replicability
* Invisible audiences

What happens when every single thing I do, is recorded? Privacy as in, I get to control the community. Concerns over privacy. You're going to stop talking, when a powerful adult comes into your life. (We adults don't experience this...)

Teens have lost their hangout space. In the US, mobile phones are used as a leash for teens. But other places (Japan), you can use your phone as a location device--you can know who your friends are, in what geographic area. What kinds of interactions will you find valuable. Teenagers as part of adult society...when they're segregated out, how do we teach teenagers about how to be a part of our society? (Because regulation and strict guidelines/structures don't work.)

Q. How do rural kids use this?
A. (Look at written stuff.) Pew says more than 90% of teens have access to the internet. Social/economic status plays a part. For people with home access, it's to solidify relationships. For people with only public access (libraries and schools), they have been written out of the equation. *Kids are not able to use the social tools in the very environment where they are meant to gain access --aka the library banning and blocking environment*

In an urban environment, kids will be lined up at an Apple Store, in order to get on MySpace.


Anonymous said...

Yes, there are some profound generalisations one can about make teens, manners and mores, myspace, blogging, et al. Still I wonder if a lot of the fears about today's teens falling prey to pedophiles, stalkers, etc. are that different from the fears parents had in the 60s and 70s about their kids turning into drug crazed zombies. Perhaps those of us of a certain age need to take a reality check and remember that today's myspace junkie is likely to become tomorrow's law abiding consumer/workbot.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great article! I use facebook to talk to my friends and socialize with others. It is a form of communication. But it is so easy to get harassed online. I do not fall into the trap. I am a teen writer at which is a parenting blog from the kid's perspective there are 60 teen and tween writers run by teen author, Vanessa Van Petten. We just posted a video of "Why Do Teens Use Social Networking Sites" here:

and would love for you to check it out and tell us what you think or repost if you like it,

Cheers, thanks for checking it out!

G and the Teen Team