For months now the talk of the virtual town has been about teens and Twitter. The he said, she said has gotten out of hand. For every Morgan Stanley intern who claims that teens just plain don't use the micro-blogging service there is a Pew Internet report that puts that assertion to the sword.
The latest twist in the tale shows that Millennials are beginning to turn to Twitter as the median age of Facebook has aged seven years (from 26 to 33) since May of last year. Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb breaks down the Pew report that has the status update king coming in as the second youngest social network to MySpace:
37% of those 18-24 now use Twitter when only 19% did back in December 2008. And in the slightly older 25-34 bracket, a portion of which could still be considered Gen Y, 31% are now using the service compared to only 20% in December of last year. Combined, these two groups account for more than half of Twitter's network.
Not that Twitter CEO Evan Williams is jumping for joy at the prospect of a user base that is skewing younger. In a recent interview with Fortune magazine the Twitter co-founder implies that he's okay with teens steering clear of his service, since the focus of Twitter isn't social networking anyway:
If I had to choose, I would rather have adults on the service than teenagers. The reason kind of makes sense if you think about what you care about. Twitter is not a social network. The emphasis is on information and finding out what's happening among things you care about -- work, industry, company, news. And it's well known that teenagers are not really consumers of news.
Yet that didn't stop Twitter from giving an semi-offical seal of approval to 16-year-old tech blogger Daniel Brusilovsky, helping the ambitious teen rocket past 121,000 followers on the... well we're not even sure what to call Twitter anymore since Williams doesn't want us to call it a social network. Perhaps text-messaging on steroids?
But what does it all mean? What is the net effect of all this social networking?
If Jeffery Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal is to be believed we're seeing the rise of a new "Greatest Generation (of Networkers)". In an article that looks at the sociological impact that Facebook and its competitors are having on the under 25 set, Zaslow took the notion that social media is rotting the minds of youth, turning them into digital zombies, to tech analysis Ben Bajarin:
He argues that because young people are so adept at multimedia socializing, their social skills are actually strengthened. They're good at "managing conversations" and getting to the pithy essence of an issue, he says, which will help them in the workplace.
While their older colleagues waste time holding meetings or engaging in long phone conversations, young people have an ability to sum things up in one-sentence text messages, Mr. Bajarin says. "They know how to optimize and prioritize. They will call or set up a meeting if it's needed. If not, they text." And given their vast network of online acquaintances, they discover people who can become true friends or valued business colleagues—people they wouldn't have been able to find in the pre-Internet era.
Final analysis: everyone is still making it up as they go along.