Tag Archives: twitter

Why don’t young people blog?

Today I came across a post by the famous Bora Zivkovic, whose sense of Internet omnisciency makes my own pale in comparison. Bora has been following an experiment of sorts by Mason Posner, a professor of biology at Ashland University in Ohio, in which Posner had his students create science blogs as part of the curriculum.

Bora writes:

…take a look at last year’s (2009) student blogs – wonderful writing on all of them, good stuff. But! One of them is already deleted. There are four other blogs that stopped posting around early May of last year, probably at the time the course ended. Only one of the blogs is still running today. Why did they stop?

Now, you may remember a similar experiment at Duke – see this and this and especially experiences of Erica Tsai who ran the program. Why did all the Duke student blogs end once the class was over? There is always a lot of chatter online (see the most recent commentary about a Pew study hereherehere and here) about teens and college students not blogging…

Bora notes that members of this younger demographic use social networking sites like Twitter and the facebook, sometimes more than their elders, but they are more likely to keep private accounts. His main question is, why do these Web savvy kids fall off with blogging?

My hunch is that a lot of it has to do with visibility. For some perspective, my class (graduating college in 2008), was the first to  have access to the facebook, and to have it all four years of college. I remember the day I got the invitation the August before I left for school, and how it shaped my interactions throughout college. We voluntarily exposed our personal lives in a time that was the height of our debauchery. We navigated our social worlds knowing people before we actually met them, and, more commonly, we learned way too much about people after only meeting them once, shaping our decisions for future meetings.

We saw our peers become examples of what not to do on the facebook. Their drunk party pictures became grounds for expulsion, job termination, and removal from athletic teams. Public embarrassment became easier than ever. One guy I (unfortunately) knew in college created a group called “The 100 Hottest Ladies at University of Michigan.” After reaching quota, he changed the group name to “MICHIGAN’S DIRTIEST WHORES,” and had a good laugh. Some people remained in that group for weeks without realizing.

With job scarcity what it is, and the aspect of Internet permanence introduced by companies like Google, kids are instilled with the advice to not post anything they wouldn’t want a potential employer to see with the fervor of sex ed campaigns promoting condom use: You don’t want to do something impulsive that will fuck up your life forever. One of my colleagues at The Michigan Daily published this article with some pretty compelling examples of how this could happen (which prompted me to make a facebook album called “This’ll fuck up your political career” and tag him in it. PWND!). We even had a policy at The Daily that editors couldn’t be in certain groups, as they might put a dent in The Daily’s credibility if someone cried “Conflict of Interest” on a news article. And of course, we all watched the defamation (not to mention contract terminations and loss of incredible amounts of revenue) of our classmate Michael Phelps.

So you see, the paranoia about putting yourself out there on the Web in an unedited form is a rampant inhibitory factor in young individuals. Hence, the locked twitter accounts and private facebook pages. Even though science blogging seems like a tame enough activity, and one that would promote one’s job acquisition instead of jeopardizing it, I think the overall skepticism about Web publicity could have something to do with young people’s hesitancy to maintain blogs. Also, young people want to talk about young people things sometimes. If they’re blogging on a platform where they can’t fully express themselves, then yeah, it does start to feel like a job or a chore.

Personally, I think the social networking paranoia is way overblown for the same reasons I think people worried about the Internet turning into Big Brother and enslaving us all need to relax: People just don’t care that much, and don’t have enough time to dig through all the content a kid can generate. I still keep my facebook page private with five different privacy filters for my friends, and have a locked Twitter account in addition to a public one, but I also have a lot of publicly available references to my debauchery too. My current employer Google stalked me pretty thoroughly before he offered me a job, but I’d like to think he hired me because of my quirky Web remnants, not in spite of them. Now he has full access to my facebook page, and doesn’t think any less of me or my ability to get the job done.

In the words of Bora Z himself, “20 years from now, a person who does NOT have drunk Facebook pictures online will be suspicious… ‘Drunk at a party’ is just a shorthand for having a normal, relaxed human online presence and not just something on LinkedIn that looks like a Resume.” People are people, and even if a person is your potential boss, they should understand that you’re just a person too. Maybe if we didn’t set extreme standards about people’s personal lives for admittance into certain professions, kids wouldn’t be so discouraged from sharing on the Web. And our politicians might be a little less fucked up.

So I think that if we want kids to get engaged with blogging, even science blogging at an early age, they have to hear messages from their elders that their any future employer who would judge them for expressing themselves isn’t someone they really want to work for anyway. And then we, as their potential future employers, need to follow through.

While we’re at it, I want to see older people post the remnants of their college debauchery on the facebook. I mean it, bust out the photo albums, scan those pics and post em. You all have job security! You really have no excuse to deny your students this joy.

Full circle in the fall

I am sitting in the control station at the Internet Garage, surrounded by computer monitors. I haven’t worked here since January but the manager was going out of town and asked if I wanted to pick up shifts, so I said sure, if for no other reason than that I’m always looking for excuses to avoid going out Friday nights. But this place has its charm. It’s good to be back in IT, troubleshooting and giving people the most precious gift of all: Internets. Well, selling it to them for exorbitant rates, but whatever.

It’s also a bit strange to be back here. For one, because people are all like “O hey the IG girl is back!” (I’m the only girl who has worked here in the past ~2 years). But also because things have kind of come full circle. The fall is when that kind of thing usually happens for me. I mean, this is where it all started. I was sitting in this very seat when I made my first WordPress account, when I pressed publish on my first blog post. The IG customers were the first to hear my exclamations of glee when I saw what a link from the New York Times website could do for the traffic of a quirky, small-time culture blog (an old pseudonymous one, not TMD). And it was working here that I collected the dozens of hilarious remnants I occasionally post in the Found series on here.

I guess this is also where I decided that the blogosphere was something that I wanted to be deeply involved with, as a writer and as a Web 2.0 technophile. When I was in college and an editor on my school newspaper, I used to be skeptical of the blogosphere and its ability to provide rewards for the writer, professionally and financially. I once even made a facebook group called “Fuck blogging. My thoughts are worth $$”. Yes yes, while you may know me now as a major blog enthusiast and proponent of Open Access, Open Science, and the idea that the web is changing journalism as we know it for the *way* better, I admit I had my curmudgeonly moments. But this was back when Twitter was saturated with the breakfast-describer variety and it was a rarity to encounter people over 40 on the Facebook. It’s funny how things change.

There really isn’t a purpose to this post other than reflection…

#goodsex trending thread indicates humanity is DOOMED

A few days ago I was sitting around, being unemployed and surfing the web, and I noticed a trending topic called #goodsex rising to the top of the ranks on Twitter. I’ve been thinking a lot about sex and how it is perceived and practiced in the U.S. lately, as I’ve been developing a website to aggregate the posts related to the Silence Is The Enemy project. With all the horrendous acts of sexual violence going on in Liberia in mind, I was already in a bit of a cynical state before I started reading the #goodsex thread. After reading Tweets like this, my WTF-dar went into High Alert mode:

Harmonygirl30 #goodsex is when you don’t even care if you might of gotten pregnant cause you feel like you got a story to tell them when they older…

I_am_delo: @BscoTT26 #goodsex is when u don’t pull out!

InspiredByTrue: #goodsex when the kids walk in or wake up but you don’t care… U just gotta finish!

BabeHound #goodsex when u pray there’s no condoms

Sorry, BabeHound, but I pray to historical figures in science that there WERE condoms around, for the sake of your future illegitimate offspring. These are just a few examples, but there were hundreds, if not thousands of Tweets about having reckless, unprotected sex written by people who make egregious typos and grammatical errors. Who knew that Twitter would be the tool to give us confirmation that humanity is DOOMED?

Ironically, shortly after #goodsex rose to the top of the trending ranks, #”China bans Twitter” followed as people circulate news of China’s recent decision to ban access to a number of social networking sites including Twitter, hotmail, and flickr. China, I do not approve of your censorship tactics, but seeing as your motivation for doing this was probably based on the #goodsex thread, I will cut you a little slack. I mean, you have population control problems. You don’t want your people getting any ideas from the sleazy Americans. I also think I understand your motivations behind hotmail… it is a really crappy interface. But what did flickr ever do to you?? That is just going too far.

china_twitter