[Notes: You can view all my "Thoughts on Twitter" posts displayed chronologically here: http://www.RexBlog.com/thoughts-on-twitter.]
On Twitter, I’ve had a running gag for several months in which I note that the New York Times hazes reporters by making them write a story about Twitter. That’s why there’s a story about it every day (or so it seems). They even have two entries on Twitter in their encyclopedic feature, Times Topics.
But a feature story in today’s paper called “Who’s Driving Twitter’s Popularity? Not Teenagers” has me thinking that every story about Twitter that can be written, has been.
Why? Because they’re re-hashing the “teens don’t use Twitter” story as if it’s news or insightful.
Early in 2008, I wrote a post I titled “Twitter is something you’ll never get, so quit trying,” which has become one the most visited pages on this blog. The post was inspired by a column in the New York Times that said nearly exactly what today’s story says: Twitter is a platform that has never been popular with teenagers.
It has never been a mystery to me — or anyone who actually thinks about this stuff — to understand why Twitter is not a “teenager” thing.*
As I wrote in February, 2008:
“Unlike with some online phenomena, understanding Twitter is not a “generational” thing. Twitter is not one of those fads that caught on among kids that has worked its way up the age-chain. It’s more like Google, in that it started as a drop-dead simple solution to a problem no one knew they had — and has become an obsession with a sub-set of tech-geeks and people obsessed with the nature of online community and conversation (I confess)…My then 16-year-old son was with me last March at South by Southwest where Twitter first grabbed the attention of the geekorati. He observed the obsession’s ground-zero, but Im sure he’d echo the quote from the daughter of this NY Times columnist, who says, “I’m looking at the site right now, and I don’t get the point.” Here’s my theory why teenagers don’t get the point: There’s a feature on Facebook called “status updates” that does everything a teenager would care to do with Twitter, so why bother? To high school and college students, Twitter is like Facebook without the dozens of other things they like about Facebook — except on Facebook, your parents can’t follow you if you don’t allow them to. (You can block someone on Twitter or opt to limit the visibility of your message to only those you follow, but the common practice is to allow anyone to become a follower — really, why not?)
So, all together now: Teenagers don’t use Twitter because everyone they care to talk to has Facebook. And besides, their parents use Twitter. Thus it was. Thus it is. Thus it will be.