Is the End Near for Social Networking?
“An annual report on the state of the UK’s television, radio and telecoms markets says that social networking has begun to mature ‘both metaphorically and literally especially for teens and those in their early twenties.”
And then he goes on to expand on the findings of the report by adding his observations of the communication habits of his 3 teenagers. He says their worlds revolve around texting, they don’t use Facebook much, and have no interest in Twitter or blogs.
Prophesying a forthcoming end to social networking is pretty bold. It’s contrary to all the hype social networking is getting these days. So, let’s take a closer look…
1) Are teens abandoning social networking?
My kids are still too young for MySpace and Facebook. I would guess I have about a dozen or so teenagers from my church who I’m Facebook friends with. About half of them regularly update their status and post pics, and the other half rarely post anything. I only have a few college age friends in Facebook, but they seem pretty regular. My friends who work in high school and college ministry are prolific Facebookers.
I’m not seeing a trend of teens leaving social networking, but I really don’t have a good vantage point. What’s your observation? Are teens and those in their early 20s abandoning social networking?
2) Are teens an accurate predictor of communication trends?
On the surface, young people seem to be early adopters and less resistant to change. But where have recent communication trends taken off?
Web pages started with university professors and students, then spread to business and personal use. Email did as well. Blogging gained popularity among adults in their 20s and 30s as a way to communicate news and views that weren’t being discussed in the main stream media. Mobile phone use initially took off in businesses, particularly those who needed to keep in touch with sales people who spent a lot of time on the road. They were the only ones who could afford it.
For all of those media, college students and 20-somethings were the early adopters not high school students.
MySpace was the first big social networking site. It gained popularity first among teens, but it’s dying primarily because it’s too high school. Facebook, which started among college students has surpassed MySpace and has gone mainstream. Texting is perhaps the only form of communication that has really gone mainstream after first gaining popularity among teens.
Grown Up Communications
I think teens are bad predictors of communication trends because they communicate differently than adults. Most high school students are just trying to get through school and have fun with their friends. They are not trying to get stuff done. They are not trying to lead, influence, or market. (Thank God, there are many exceptions.)
Usually sometime in the college, young people start to shift their sites from having fun to finding their place in the world, trying accomplish something, make a difference. When that shift occurs so does the way a person communicates.
Going back to the report Simpson cites, I agree, “social networking has begun to mature.” For that reason, I see the trend towards social networking continuing to grow. How about you?