January 16

Talking to my favorite teens about social media

IMG_1308Yesterday I posted a few comments about a teen’s view of social media, and last night I was able to spend several delightful hours with a couple of my favorite teens to see their thoughts on the essay’s reflections. Ashley is a junior at a local SoCal high school, and Addison, her sister, is graduating in 21 weeks. Their insight on the social media that they’re using is enlightening for those of us looking to engage with the younger generation (boy, I sound like an old lady when I write like that, don’t I?).


The girls thought the article’s comments about Facebook were spot on. Ashley (the younger) decided to skip a Facebook account. Addison uses Facebook mostly for group activities and family discussions. The absolute worst thing that can happen to a teen on Facebook is when one of her friends tags a picture of her and Grandma leaves a comment about her cute little grandkid.

The article stated that young people used Facebook Messenger quite a bit, and Addison agreed. “When you’re too nervous to ask for someone’s phone number, you can message them on Facebook.”


Again, the girls thought Andrew Watt was spot on with his characterization of young people’s use of Instagram. They enjoy Instagram both as a way to find inspiration (following photographers, etc.) and an artsy way to express themselves. They’ll take their time coming up with cool and funny captions, and they use AfterLight for filters and photo extras to make their Instagram pictures look great.

I asked the girls about the “100 Club,” an obsession that teens have with proving their popularity by getting 100 or more likes on their Instagram pictures. “There are some kids who get caught up in likes to boost their self esteem or whatever,” Addison says, “But we really don’t worry about that.” She did say that if a selfie gets a lot of likes, she may use it as a profile pic on her other social media sites.

Here’s a news story about the 100 Club. The reporters make it sound like a thing, but the girls think it’s not a thing.

World News Videos | ABC World News


Andrew Watt and the girls agree that Snapchat is incredibly popular. You snap a quick picture or a video, and recipients can catch a glimpse of your day or mood or boredom — but only for a few seconds. Then the media disappears. Both the girls and Andrew Watt think the new My Story feature is awesome. You can put a few pictures or videos together for a little slideshow, and you can share the story with groups of your friends. Unlike a regular snap, Stories don’t disappear.

“It’s like texting but you see the person,” Addison says. Ashley talked about a recent snap attack where her friend sent a whole slew of pictures that featured her bunnies eating grass. Addison says she and her friends send completely ridiculous faces to one another, then they snap screenshots of their friends to blackmail each other for looking so silly.

It was interesting that like Andrew, the girls weren’t concerned about whether the snaps actually disappeared forever or whether some giant corporation was storing all their old pictures for later use. They’re just not that worried about privacy.

A sad Snapchat backstory: A couple of years ago when Snapchat first started taking over the teen scene, I created an account and invited Addison to connect with me. She never responded. I’m still in therapy. Last night I asked her about it, and she swore that she didn’t see it and promised to be my friend, as did Ashley. So at last I’ll be in the cool kids’ club and will be able to share quick pics and videos that last just seconds so my friends can see, well, everything. This morning I texted them both a selfie of me in my bathrobe while I finish up this blog post. I know they’re going to blackmail me.


The girls once again agreed that Andrew was pretty spot on with his commentary on Twitter. Addison has just started using it, and she sees a lot of her friends complaining. There’s this thing called “subtweeting,” where you write a message to an anonymous someone, like, “I see you right now and I hate you so much and you don’t even know it.” And then your friends may retweet you if they’re feeling the same way about something or some one. Ashley has an account but doesn’t tweet. She just likes to keep up with people and companies she finds interesting.


Ashley loves, loves, loves Tumblr. It’s where she shows her Fan Girl side. She collects info and follows people related to Dr. Who and other favorite TV shows. I sound like an old aunt here, but her eyes really lit up when she talked about how much cool content she finds and distributes on her Tumblr site.

Other Sites

Andrew Watt mentioned Yik Yak as a location-based social network that is popular in college. The girls vaguely remembered trying it out but didn’t find a good use for it. As you would expect, they thought of LinkedIn as a professional tool their parents use. They had never heard of the blogging platform Medium, but then again, they didn’t know anything about WordPress either. When I asked them how they would start a blog, Addison said, “I would Google ‘How to start a blog.'” Ashley said her Tumblr is her blog, which makes perfect sense. They used to like Vine with it’s 6-second video GIFs, but they’re over it. If anything, they’ll watch a Vine compilation on YouTube, which they adore.


blogging, just plain fun, on the go, social media, video

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  • Thanks for the insightful post – I like that you went directly to other sources. Really appreciated both of your recent posts on this topic and gave me a lot to think about when it comes to our organization engaging with younger audiences.

  • I have a 14 and soon to be 16 year old and Andrews assessment of the sites they use was true. My 14 does not have facebook and my 16 y.o. uses it sparingly. Snapchat, instagram, and vine compilations seem to be their go to social media sites. There is no one under 21 interacting on my facebook page.

  • Spot on – I read the original story when you posted it to an ASAE listserv and appreciate the validation by your own mini-focus group. Now it’s figuring out what it means for our organizations and engaging students. Thanks for keeping us thinking, Beth.

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