This Gen-Z Teenager Explains Why and How She Uses Various Social Media Platforms
Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.
For my generation, using social media is fundamental for how we communicate day-today with each other. Personally, I use around five to six different forms of social networking websites and apps daily, which means there are multiple ways we can be reached.
My generation, Gen-Z, has a strong social focus. Anything our friends, our family, and our celebrity idols do is important for us to know about. There’s constant chatter from marketers and individuals outside of Generation-Z that try to pinpoint these channels, and our behaviors on each, so I’m here to tell you my side of the story. Of course, each of us is different, but let me break down my use of social media for you.
At the top of my list is Snapchat. It’s easy, simple, instant messaging, only more interesting. In my head, the process starts with seeing something cool, snapping a quick photo or video, adding a caption, and sending to my Snapchat friends. It’s just about as real-time as it gets too, and my friends can instantly see what I’m doing in that exact moment. And usually, my friends will reply with a photo and caption, and I get to see what they’re doing as well.
Photos and videos on Snapchat are no longer than 10 seconds, and it’s this short, ephemeral, close-to-real-life sharing that really sparks my interest, and quite frankly, a lot of my time. Better yet (for now) Snapchat doesn’t have advertisements interrupting my experience. I’m not bombarded with information I don’t want or need, and instead, I’m free to roam, create, consume, and share as I please.
Instant. Free. Messaging. It’s really that simple. You can see exactly when someone was last online, whether they’ve read your message, and one recently added feature I’m excited about, is the ability to call other WhatsApp users for free. Having been away from home recently, and data roaming charges costing what is probably worth more than my whole existence, the $0.99 price tag after the first year is well outweighed by WhatsApp’s unlimited calls and free messages. On top of messages, it’s extremely easy to share photos and videos within WhatsApp too. It’s so seamless, and the entire WhatsApp experience works on all smartphones, and even desktops now too!
Facebook comes a little lower down on my list because I still check it every day, but I rarely post. I’m not too sure when it happened, probably around 2011 as Twitter became more and more popular with my friends. Either way, it suddenly became “uncool” to post a status on Facebook. Instead of seeing my own updates and photos, my newsfeed is now filled with shared videos and content leading to other sites that people find interesting.
Today, the main reason I use Facebook is to keep in contact with people through Messenger. I also like to upload and organize my photos there, as well as discover new events in my area, or even ones my friends are attending that look interesting to me. Scrolling through my newsfeed is just a way to pass the time if I’m honest, I rarely find anything interesting though due to a boatload of irrelevant content posted by others. Not to mention the frequent game invites that I want nothing to do with, and by that point, I’m already logged out.
Twitter and Facebook are a pretty even split when it comes to what I use them for, and how frequently too. I don’t Tweet myself that often, but Twitter’s mobile app allows me to closely monitor the people I follow, and especially the events I want to follow in real-time. For example, music festivals sometimes release their line-up on Twitter, and if I know the announcements are taking place, I’m glued to my phone waiting for every single Tweet to come out.
I also get most of my news from Twitter. It’s a big part for me. Most, if not all, large news companies have Twitter accounts, and it’s much easier to log onto my phone to catch up with the news that I’m interested in rather than pick up a newspaper, magazine, or watch the television. Quickly scrolling on my devices is not only more efficient, but it also saves me time each and every day.
Again, not a huge sharer on Instagram, but I will regularly look at my feed throughout the day. The ease of liking a photo, and Instagram’s mobile-first design is the difference-maker for me, and seeing what others are doing wherever I am is super important.
Photos are far more interesting and easier to “read” than a Tweet or Facebook status, for example. More information can be absorbed in a much shorter amount of time with Instagram photos, and unlike Snapchat, Instagram allows me to step into my friends shoes at that moment in time, and add a creative twist to the visual experience. Adding filters is part of the enjoyment too. They make a huge difference, and in a way, should represent, at the least, what the individual is thinking, feeling, and seeing first-hand.
YouTube is probably the easiest way to waste my time on the Internet. The vast amount of videos constantly uploaded means there is always something new to sit down for and watch. Tutorials on YouTube are big for me. They are so much easier to follow compared to step-by-step written instructions, and YouTube’s overall variety of how-to videos plays a major role within my age group. Along with discovering music and random videos we find amusing, YouTube continues to be an integral part of my online activity.
Although I don’t use this daily, I can easily spend a number of hours at a time on StumbleUpon. The entire platform is based on your interests, and random websites from the Internet are aggregated together and pulled directly to you for you to look at. The nature of StumbleUpon sucks you in for hours because it is so hyper-specific and relevant to each user. Hence, why I can spend a whole afternoon finding stuff from the internet that I would probably never have found otherwise.
Platforms I Don’t Use… and Why
So here is a list of social media platforms I don’t use on a day-to-day basis, or even at all. With a growing number of social media sites entering mainstream usage, it often feels like there are just too many accounts and profiles to keep track of. It may seem that Generation-Z spends all day with our faces in our phones (in all fairness, that’s where our friends live) some of us don’t actually want to be bogged down with keeping track of 10 million different accounts. Plus remembering passwords for each one is the biggest memory test of all time.
The main reason I don’t have LinkedIn is because I don’t really need it yet. For me, and most people I know my age, hardly anyone has a LinkedIn profile because it’s seen as a platform for corporate activity. Maintaining a LinkedIn profile screams “I’m now ready to grow up. Enough with all this messing around, I’m going to be an adult!” There are certain connotations of being too serious. A LinkedIn account would just be another profile to keep up to date and check regularly. At the moment, I don’t want to spend my entire life online checking whether or not I have more followers, or however it is LinkedIn works.
After a week of creating boards and Pinning items, I deleted my profile. The constant emails and updates for things I wasn’t really that interested in were way too annoying for me to bother with at all. I also realized that if I wanted to see an image of something particular, I can just Google it. Complete waste of time.
Perhaps I completely missed the boat with this one. I had an account for about two days, long after everyone else I knew signed up, and now, I just don’t get it. I wasn’t too sure how to use it at the time, and it seemed full of “hipsters” posting “hipster” images of themselves being super “hipster” and it way was too much of the same thing. No thanks.
All in all, I look for minimal hassle when using a social media platform. It needs to be engaging, and specific to my interests. If there are going to be advertisements, they need to be relevant or fun and engaging. Emails need to be kept to a minimum too, and if I can’t easily figure out how to use it, I wont.
Editor’s Note: Some platforms were not mentioned, such as Vine, Periscope, Meerkat, Google+, and others. If you enjoyed this op-ed, and would like to hear from more members of Gen-Z, let us know on Twitter!
Watch SMW Live
SMW Insider is a premium video platform that streams more than 180+ hours of talks, presentations, and interviews from leading industry experts.
Write for Us
Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.