Saturday, February 6, 2010

5.1.3, 5.3.1: The non-bloggin' generation

A recent Pew Internet Project report, "Social Media and Young Adults" (PDF), examines how those in the teens and early adulthood years (18 to 29) interact with technology. One of the interesting finds: blogs are not a high-use, highly interactive medium for young people. Bloggers in the age group went from 24% in 2007 to just 15% in 2009. Among adults, well, about 11% of users over 30 maintain a blog (the "Are blogs for old people?" news item cites the Pew report). The attention of young people is shifting to social networking. Twitter, the report found, has a 37% use among online users aged 18-24, 25% use among those 25-29, and 22% use among those aged 30-49; 19% of all online adults use Twitter. Virtual worlds (it is not clear if this statistic includes virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft) are used by about 4% of online users.

The report contains lots of useful information relating to internet uptake and connectivity, gadget ownership (cell phones, computers, mp3 players, gaming devices) and overall trends in internet use. I found this take on ReadWriteWeb thought-provoking:
But blogging? Passé, says the report. The medium once used for sharing either news and/or personal thoughts and feelings is no longer popular among teens. The why is simple: Facebook. With the ability to update your status on social networking sites, the need to communicate using long-form mechanisms like sentences and - ugh! - paragraphs is no longer necessary. Instead of summarizing a day's events via blog post for example, a teen may simply update Facebook multiple times throughout the day with the details as to what's happening in their life at the moment...
Longer forms of communication are being sacrificed for smaller, more convenient, bite-sized pieces. What will this mean for a generation already struggling with general literacy? I think the "young people are using it so we should" argument starts to rapidly fall down here... the genre of use for social networking is immediate, brief, and more descriptive than reflective.


asiabible said...

Thought provoking. But isn't it not "they use it so we should" or "it doesn't encourage long complex thought so it is no use" but rather:
1. What is it good for?
2. Is that useful in teaching and learning?
so: 3. How might we use it?

Take Facebook, it does not encourage long complex thought - to use it to develop thinking skills would be like using a hammer to undo a screw. But it is great at keeping people in touch (perhaps, but lets assume so for now) so: Are there ways/times/reasons that is usefgul in teaching and learning?

I have a couple of students (one distance undergraduate last semester, one postgraduate thesis) who use Facebook messaging as their preferred way to contact me. I prefer email, but how will I benefit them if I encourage them to adfopt MY preference? Supposing I preferred handwritten messages?

Tim said...


Nichthus said...

Hi Tim,

Blogs can be used well in education... and I endorse your three points - to a degree. Not everything that might be useful, is. Sometimes using additional technologies and approaches to try to meet one need can balloon difficulties elsewhere. Blogging is reflective, requiring good written expression and a strong sense of purpose, which is naturally a plus for education. However it also takes considerable time which might be better employed on other tasks. Also, how central to education is "keeping people in touch", at least at the social level facilitated by social networking applications?

I don't think there would be anything wrong with expecting students to communicate with you by email (your reference to 'handwritten messages' does seem to take things a bit far!) I do admire your flexibility though! Coming back to the point in the post, Facebook and email are different genre for communications - and to a certain extent I think this is significant for formal education.