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