Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Social Media I - the teen years

These days, I feel it’s fair to spoil my kid rotten in exchange for being able to tell stories about teenagers - not always to a teen’s advantage. It started when he was 2 years old and barfed a pile of half-eaten gummy bears on my bed. That became the opening for a full-length stage play. Of course, since he was unaware of the hilarity his antics added to my storytelling, I didn’t feel the need to shower him with lattes, hair gel and snowboarding gear at the time. Ah, simpler times.

I enjoy observing teens, especially mine: their mating habits; eating forays; homework avoidance techniques (later perfected in the workplace); and the ebb and flow of their social structures.

What is amazing is that his generation grew up with computers. Not just a home computer, but computers and chips and technology just about everywhere: tv remotes and picture-in-picture; cell phones; Interac; digital music players… the list is long. He effortlessly uses and pushes the technology in ways that I don’t even think to go.

His friendships are conducted via text messages, Facebook, and YouTube uploads. Email is considered old-fashioned and clunky by teen standards. He belongs to on-line groups and stays in touch with current events (as relates to teen concerns) via virtual communication means.

The other day he emerged from his cave with his red hair sprayed dark black. He informed me it was “National Kick a Ginger Day” and that a large Facebook posting had his friends sending warnings all night. It takes me 2months to read my Facebook stuff. His cell phone delivers updates.

Friendships are made, lost and expanded via 1 or 2 lines of text, spelled creatively and delivered via a cell phone screen. Parties, gatherings and meetings are sent virally within hours (if not minutes). He “speaks” to more than a dozen people an evening and never gets up from his favourite TV show.

Is that multi-tasking or networking at the next level?

I’ve been asked a great deal what role ‘social networking’ should play in networking. I don’t think there’s an obvious answer. I don’t even think that everyone understands what ‘social networking’ is or what’s involved.

Even technology professionals are divided on this debate.

It’s only clear to teenagers…or so I thought.

My son - without my knowing - is actually interested in the concept of building personal community and secretly reads my blog. He read an earlier draft of this posting and suggested that he could have all the tools taken away for one good coffee with someone.

No matter how the generations are divided across their styles and tools, one approach remains the ultimate in ‘social networking’: face to face.

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