Teens: Tongue-tied or Just Too Cool for Twitter, Blogging?
In the battle of youthful stereotypes, it seems as if center-of-the-universe narcissism is no match for good ol’ monosyllabic moodiness, at least according to the latest info from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Their recently-released study shows that blogging has declined in popularity among both 12-17 year-olds and 18-29 year-olds (from 28% to 14% and 24% to 15% respectively) since 2006/2007. The Pew also reports that blog commenting has lost popularity among young internet users, Twitter has yet to catch on with the teen set and the use of social networking site communications tools (Facebook messages, MySpace bulletins, etc.) has declined even as the sites themselves have gained popularity.
In fact, it seems as if youth, in contrast to older Gen Ys and other age brackets, are redefining their online presence to reflect an increasingly one-sided relationship with the wired world. They’re avid consumers of electronic media in the form of information on politics and current events and are becoming bigger e-commerce patrons, but are simultaneously abdicating a potential role as creators of original content ( in the form of blogs or micro-blogs). The most obvious explanation may be that as cell phone use spreads among teens (Pew reports that 73% of 12-year olds are cell phone owners), youth might simply be using texting as a more immediate, real-time means of communicating with peers.
But could the relative lack of youth voices in the blogosphere have a more insidious root? The ever exclamatory Daily Mail ran a piece last month that sounded alarm bells about the dubious future employability of British youth with limited vocabularies, citing the fact that while teens know tens of thousands of words, they often limit their quotidian communication to as few as 800. This feature, coupled with the Pew’s findings, raises the question of whether relying successfully on such a condensed vernacular actually discourages youth from being more verbose (If 800 words gets the job done, why use more?). And if so, whether it’s a conscious choice on the part of youth to eschew communications channels (i.e., blogs and Twitter) that require a wider vocab or whether it’s simply a case of losing what they’re not actively using. Put another way, are we entering Flowers for Algernon/1984′s Newspeak territory where the strictures of a limited word pool actually renders youth unable to effectively articulate their thoughts and ideas via traditional prose? And is a rejection of long-form blogging simply the tip of this iceberg?