Generation Y: We're just not that into Twitter

Given that Generation Y is often pegged as narcissistic, lazy, having high expectations, craving the limelight, and other such flattering characterizations, one might expect we'd be Twittering as if it were breathing. After all, Twitter is known as a place where people expose the most minute details of their lives--missing the bus, stubbing a toe, toasting an English muffin.

But a recent survey from Pace University and the Participatory Media Network shows that only 22 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Twitter, while 99 percent have profiles on social networks.

This may seem surprising on the face of it, but as a member of the Millennial Generation myself, I have some theories as to why it might be true. To see why we're not into Twitter, I'll have to revisit the start of the social-networking timeline: MySpace.

We Gen Yers spent hours on MySpace customizing our profiles and making them perfect representations of us (or rather, who we wanted to be). We couldn't wait for our friends to comment a new photo: "New pic, please comment!" MySpace made many of us feel popular, or even famous. I remember posting a new profile picture and refreshing the page in anticipation of responses.

Jean Twenge, psychologist and author of "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement," calls this phenomenon "self-branding." People use MySpace as a portal for creating their own personal brand, Twenge says, complete with photos, custom banners, gossip, and fans (friends). One of the most successful self-branders is Tila Tequila, who tactfully used MySpace to achieve status as one of the users with the most friends on the site, and later parlayed that fame into a career as an MTV reality star.

Though we weren't international superstars, my friends and I were content on MySpace. But fast-forward a couple years to Facebook. It proved to be a difficult transition: where were all the flashing graphics, purple fonts, and exhaustive, multimedia-laden About Me sections? Why weren't the number of photo comments shown? Every user's profile looks the same, and at a glance, it seems self-branding is not easily attained.

The clean design of Facebook deemed decked-out profiles and artsy photos passe, but the site provided us with a new form of self-expression--"What are you doing?" status updates, which became the new platform for what Twenge describes as my generation's narcissistic need for attention.

What Facebook intends as a forum for sharing, Gen Yers see as a game of show-off. A quick look at my news feed and I see "Melissa" (name changed to protect the innocent) is having "one of the funnest nights of her life," and "beer and vodka make a interesting combination oww." 'Nuff said.

Brendon Nemeth, a 22-year-old San Franciscan whom I met this spring, says he updates his status to "keep family and friends informed on what's going on that's interesting in my life."

We no longer impress our friends with profiles that represent us through our creative flourishes, but rather with profiles that spell out what we're doing. (Out of fairness, our status updates don't always revolve around happenings at the local bar; plenty of us want to share our work promotions or volunteer activities, too.)

When Facebook implemented its news feed, users formed groups to oppose the feature. Now our status updates are… Read more

From Google economy to Twitter economy

I'm still processing the many great insights from the next09 conference in Hamburg, Germany, one of Europe's leading digital-creative-marketing forums. This year's theme was "Share Economy," and the 1,300 attendees consisted of European VCs and angel investors, Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, media, creative agencies, and executives from German corporations (from BMW and Deutsche Bank to Deutsche Telekom).


Jeff Jarvis: "The Great Restructuring"

The first day, the keynote day, was a little disappointing, maybe because expectations were so high. Jeff Jarvis warmed up the crowd with his trademark "What Would Google … Read more

Twitter chats and sponsored hashtags--how to do it right

By Kristina Loring

With the Twittersphere reaching critical mass, lots of companies are establishing accounts to speak directly with customers, monitor their brand, and respond to questions and rumors. Most of them are using the microblogging service to become more transparent and as a trustworthy resource for their followers, while also exposing a more personable aspect of their brand.

Here are some examples, researched by Brilliant Ink, a communications agency specializing in strategic messaging and content development:

- Ford used Twitter to host conversations and answer criticisms during the recent federal loan hearings in DC: http://twitter.com/scottmonty. Scott … Read more

Top 10 Twitter celebs: Real or fake?

Celebrities are migrating to Twitter in astounding numbers. Or so we think.

I've set out to determine if the most-followed celebrities (according to WeFollow) on Twitter are really who they say they are. Is it someone pretending to be a celeb? Is it their publicist taking care of the "trivial" task of updating their Twitter profile? You might be surprised to know that most celebrities are really tweeting. And that's pretty cool.

The top 10

1. Britney Spears Britney Spears is a celebrity of the first order. But if you read through her profile, you quickly realize that she's only tweeting a portion of the time. When she's not, other people in her entourage are. Britney signs all her tweets with "~Britney." Seems possible.

Verdict: @BritneySpears is the real Britney Spears.

2. Jimmy Fallon Jimmy Fallon tweets on the @JimmyFallon Twitter account. There's no doubt about it. He talks about things only Jimmy could shed light on. And most importantly, he talks about his tweeting on his show, "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." No worries here: it's the real guy.

Verdict: @JimmyFallon is really JimmyFallon.

3. Shaquille O'Neal Dubbed @THE_REAL_SHAQ, Shaquille O'Neal's Twitter account is one of the most entertaining in this roundup. Shaq posts pictures of himself, sends brief messages out to followers, and unleashes one-liners that will make you chuckle. I don't think there's any debating that @THE_REAL_SHAQ is the real Shaq.

Verdict: @THE_REAL_SHAQ is really him.

4. Lance Armstrong Lance Armstrong is definitely tweeting on the @LanceArmstrong account. He tweets about his travel around the U.S. He talks about where he's riding today and most importantly, he uploads personal pictures to his TwitPic account.

Verdict: @LanceArmstrong is the real deal.

5. Ellen DeGeneres Ellen DeGeneres is tweeting on her show's Twitter profile, @TheEllenShow. On multiple occasions she has said on her show that she tweets and a recent update provided a TwitPic link to an image of her mother. She also tends to make references to events in her life that others might not know.

Verdict:@TheEllenShow is the real Ellen DeGeneres… Read more

Eight Twitter username tips

Twitter is growing fast. Grab your name fast! Actually, it's probably too late. But don't give up and settle for a lame name. What you're called on Twitter matters. Here's our advice for picking your name:

1. Don't be afraid to use your real name. There's nothing wrong with using your name on Twitter. I do it. And so does Rafe. Granted, we're public figures, but that's not the point. If you're using Twitter as a networking tool or an opportunity to connect with others for personal or professional enrichment, calling yourself "DarthVader918345" isn't the smartest decision. Use your real name. Those you're communicating with will appreciate it.

If you want to hide, what are you doing on Twitter?

Related tip: Especially if your real name is taken, use your real picture. That way your friends will know it's you.

2. Don't use curse words or obscenity in your username. It's not common, but I've come across some folks who decided to throw some curse words or suggestive concepts into their username. I don't get it. Anyone who really wants to contribute something to the community won't use their username as a vehicle to shock others.

3. Do tell us about your profession or your interests. If you're using Twitter to expand your professional network, you can use your name to tell us what you do. If you're a plumber, say so. If you're an attorney, tell us. There's no better way to attract followers than to give them a hint about who you are. If your followers know you're a plumber, maybe they'll ask you how to unclog a drain. Even better, maybe they'll ask if they can hire you to fix their plumbing. For personal users, if you're a gamer, say so in your username. If you love PCs, we want to know it. Every time I see someone who puts "Yanksfan" or something like it in their username, I follow them because I know that we have something in common. There's nothing better than to have a Twitter dialogue with someone who shares your interests. … Read more

Twitter tweaks page titles, breaks out on Google

Twitter has changed its HTML title tags on user profile pages to make the site more search engine friendly. Instead of displaying its previous title of Twitter/"username," the site's new title displays the person's name, followed by his or her Twitter user name in parentheses and "on Twitter" after that.

The decision to change title tags is already working out to Twitter's advantage. I performed a vanity search on Google to see where my Twitter profile ranked in results for "Don Reisinger." For the first time, it was on the … Read more

SXSW thoughts on Twitter's past, present, future

AUSTIN, Texas--Someone blogged that South by Southwest Interactive is just like the Internet itself: disjointed, decentralized, scattered, fast, aggressive, random, fragmented, and so on.

In fact, the main commonality between the two may be that the number of attributes to describe them is infinite. Like the Internet, the annual tech conference here is an echo chamber of an echo chamber, a place where original thought and commentary get mixed up and mashed up in a highly self-referential meta conversation.

That was already the case before Twitter entered the scene at SXSW two years ago, but the microblogging service has certainly amplified the effect. It was both comical and frightening to see the uber-individualistic geeksters at SXSW captivated by the invisible rules of an ostentatious behavioral uniformity: within 1 mile of the convention center, you could observe the strange ritual of groups of people standing or sitting together, chained to their iPhones, twittering instead of talking: "SXSW. Twittering about SXSW."

The real conversation was often limited to a quick "What's your name?" or "Where's the next party?" just to have some input for the next tweet. It is indeed a read-write generation that is coming of age in the wake of an all-dominant present, with no particular loyalty to the past and maybe not even an interest in the future (see Peggy Orenstein's recent piece on "Growing up on Facebook" in The New York Times Magazine).

Yet the rise of the social digerati is unstoppable. New data by Nielsen Online shows that social-networking sites (which encompass social networks and blogs, by Nielsen's definition) are experiencing growth rates of twice as much as any of the main destination sites (search, portals, PC software sites, and e-mail). The time spent on social networks and blogging sites is growing at more than three times the rate of overall Internet growth. Furthermore, social networks are gaining traction among new audiences. … Read more

Twitter buzz gets a status update

Not only because a surgery conducted via Twitter made headlines the other day, Twitter is all the buzz (again). And it seems as if almost three years after its now-legendary debut at South by Southwest Interactive, the popular microblogging service has reached the second (or third) hype cycle, entering the business and media mainstream as the ultimate narrow--and broadcast--network.

As Joel Comm, CEO of InfoMedia and author of "Twitter Power," points out:

It's like the old saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." People who use … Read more

5 Twitter improvements we're still waiting for

I'll be the first to admit that I'm addicted to Twitter. Each day, it's kept in the coveted second tab in my Firefox window, lodged between Gmail and Meebo. But that doesn't mean it offers me everything I want or that I have no desire for more features.

In fact, I have a list of features I'd like added to Twitter.


I still don't know why Twitter has failed to add groups to the service. Maybe the company believes that groups would make it too closely resemble a social network, but who cares? … Read more

Why you should follow everyone who follows you on Twitter

The debate over whether you should follow everyone who follows you on Twitter has raged on ever since the popular microblogging service gained traction. Some say following everyone eliminates the real value Twitter provides--connecting with others of similar interests. Others say that following everyone actually provides more value.

But if you consider some of the finer points of following everyone who follows you on Twitter, I think you might come to the realization, just as I have, that following everyone is not just a responsible move on your part, it's good of the entire community.

Nope, there aren't rules, but there is etiquette

There aren't any rules forcing you to follow your followers on Twitter, but that doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do.

If someone has found you compelling in some way, shouldn't you give them the benefit of the doubt and follow them back? It's not like you can't block them in the future if you think their tweets are inappropriate.

To me, Twitter is all about the community. And by signing up, that community has made the conscious decision to interact and share interests, ideas, and personal information. If someone follows you, they're saying, in effect, that they want to hear what you have to say and care about your ideas.

I don't see anything wrong in following them as a gesture of appreciation and confirmation that you're willing to hear what they have to say, as well. After all, if you want to become a part of the community, isn't it only right that you hold up your end of the bargain and give them the same respect they've given you?

The 'noise' argument holds little water

Whenever I discuss my reasoning for following everyone who follows me on Twitter, I invariably receive the same response from those who disagree: "following everyone is too much trouble and you can't find all the conversations you actually want to engage in."


I currently follow over 2,400 people on Twitter and I've never had an issue finding really interesting and relevant information. Sure, some of it has nothing to do with me--discussions about grilled cheese sandwiches, for one--but there's quite a bit that my followers discuss that I'm interested in. I'd say that more than 80 percent of all the updates that flow through my stream are worthy of discussion. And I don't think I'm unique.… Read more