Megan Taylor

web developer, hack-n-slasher, freelancer, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Who is Twitter for?

twitterclouds Commenter Dkzody responded to my presentation for the Bronx Youth Journalism initiative with this tidbit about her high school students:

My students do not like twitter because they see it as a tool for old people. They text all the time and see no need to be limited to 140 characters. They also think it’s just people talking about what they are doing at the moment. I have to laugh because that is what they are doing when texting.

Twitter vs Txt

Twitter allows people to send short messages to other people via web app, phone. Text messages allow people to send short messages to other people via phone (and sometimes web app).

The major difference is that with Twitter one is usually broadcasting to many people, whereas text messages are often personal and directed toward one person.

Is that the aspect of Twitter that these students object to? Or is the usefulness curve for Twitter just too high?

Why Not Twitter?

The usefulness curve on Twitter is pretty darn steep. You have to sign up, find some people to follow, search for interests, follow more people, and just sort of leave it running in the background for a while before it begins to make sense.

No wonder Nielsen Online reports

Apparently more than 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return the following month and pre-Oprah more than 70 percent of Twitter users failed to return to the site.

I know a lot of people who still say “Twitter is stupid, it’s just Facebook status updates.” Well, if Facebook status updates were this good, I wouldn’t need Twitter, now would I?

Perception

I don’t know how many of Dkzody’s students have actually tried Twitter. But I do know that a lot of negative opinions about Twitter come from perception.

Is Twitter a micro-blogging service? Is Twitter a social network? Is Twitter just Facebook updates? Why am I telling Twitter what I’m doing?

I have trouble answering the questions I get from people who don’t understand the utility of Twitter, because Twitter is what you make it for yourself. For me, it’s all of the above, and more.

About this perception that Twitter is for old people…what do you make of that?

13 Comments

  1. As a former young person who is now an old person, I find that “only old people use it” is what teenagers typically say about any technology that is not immediately useful for them in communicating with other teenagers. I’ve heard the same thing said about email, telephone, chat, postcards, RSS, etc.

    The reality is that each method of communication has appropriate uses and less-than-appropriate uses. Twitter is really good at a certain kind of very public communication. Some kids will learn that as they get older, and some won’t.

    What I find really irksome are those who have decided that Twitter (and Facebook) is a privacy-invading, child-molesting, navel-gazing waste of time without actually knowing anything about what it is, or how it works. Some of the people I’ve talked to who trumpet this opinion have lived through the adoption of other technologies (email, fax, etc) and should know better.

  2. As a former young person who is now an old person, I find that “only old people use it” is what teenagers typically say about any technology that is not immediately useful for them in communicating with other teenagers. I’ve heard the same thing said about email, telephone, chat, postcards, RSS, etc.

    The reality is that each method of communication has appropriate uses and less-than-appropriate uses. Twitter is really good at a certain kind of very public communication. Some kids will learn that as they get older, and some won’t.

    What I find really irksome are those who have decided that Twitter (and Facebook) is a privacy-invading, child-molesting, navel-gazing waste of time without actually knowing anything about what it is, or how it works. Some of the people I’ve talked to who trumpet this opinion have lived through the adoption of other technologies (email, fax, etc) and should know better.

  3. those who have decided that Twitter (and Facebook) is a privacy-invading, child-molesting, navel-gazing waste of time

    That’s pretty much how my dad feels about it. He’s always asking me why I post any information about myself online. Not sure how to explain that the value returned is worth making a few holes in the privacy fence.
    I’m still perplexed by how teenagers perceive Twitter though, since from a non-smart phone it is pretty much the same thing as sending text messages. Twitter = text messaging with more teenagers!

  4. those who have decided that Twitter (and Facebook) is a privacy-invading, child-molesting, navel-gazing waste of time

    That’s pretty much how my dad feels about it. He’s always asking me why I post any information about myself online. Not sure how to explain that the value returned is worth making a few holes in the privacy fence.
    I’m still perplexed by how teenagers perceive Twitter though, since from a non-smart phone it is pretty much the same thing as sending text messages. Twitter = text messaging with more teenagers!

  5. I guess it depends on your definition of “old.” But Twitter certainly skews older than most social networks. Some recent stats:

    http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/Twitter-and-status-updating.aspx

    http://www.istrategylabs.com/twitter-2009-demographics-and-statistics/

    If something called Quantcast is to be believed, more than half of all Twitter users are >= 35, versus about 8 percent for FaceBook.

  6. I guess it depends on your definition of “old.” But Twitter certainly skews older than most social networks. Some recent stats:

    http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/Twitter-and-status-updating.aspx

    http://www.istrategylabs.com/twitter-2009-demographics-and-statistics/

    If something called Quantcast is to be believed, more than half of all Twitter users are >= 35, versus about 8 percent for FaceBook.

  7. Aron, interesting numbers. Any theories on why Twitter skews older?

  8. Aron, interesting numbers. Any theories on why Twitter skews older?

  9. I think you've made some valid assumptions, especially about my inner city high school students. My students usually want to communicate with just one person at a time. As they go off to college, that may change. And, as others in their group tweet, they too may want to get on the bandwagon. Right now, it's not relevant for them. They hear about older people being on it, and I think that discourages them from using it. Most of them, if not all, are not on Facebook either. They still like MySpace.

  10. I think I am an unusual “old” person in that I like all these forms of communication but many of my peers find it irritating that I blog and put so much of myself “out there.” They just know it's a bad thing! However, a few are getting on Facebook (which I'm not on) and loving it. So, with time, we will see how the older generation deals with all of the “newfangled” technology.

  11. I think you've made some valid assumptions, especially about my inner city high school students. My students usually want to communicate with just one person at a time. As they go off to college, that may change. And, as others in their group tweet, they too may want to get on the bandwagon. Right now, it's not relevant for them. They hear about older people being on it, and I think that discourages them from using it. Most of them, if not all, are not on Facebook either. They still like MySpace.

  12. I think I am an unusual “old” person in that I like all these forms of communication but many of my peers find it irritating that I blog and put so much of myself “out there.” They just know it's a bad thing! However, a few are getting on Facebook (which I'm not on) and loving it. So, with time, we will see how the older generation deals with all of the “newfangled” technology.

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