Suburban school, 850 students Upper middle class Technology prevalent
Six focus groups Group 1: (10 teens – 3 boys, 7 girls)Group 2 (7 teens – 6 boys, 1 girl) Group 2 (11 teens – 10 boys, 1 girl) Group 4 (5 teens – 4 boys, 1 girl) Group 5 (6 teens – 5 boys, 1 girl) Group 6 (6 teens – 6 boys) Total: 45 teens 34 boys, 11 girls 18 years-old
1. Do female and male high school seniors have differences in their preferred social networking technologies? If so, what are the differences, and how might they affect library services for teens? 2. How do teens use social networking technologies for school and leisure purposes? Is there gender-related variance in these behaviors? If so, how might it affect library services for teens? 3. How are teens using social online networking for research and for participation in political and social activism, and for gathering college- and career-related information? Is there gender-related variance in these behaviors? If so, how might it affect library services for teens? 4. How can public and school librarians who work with teens ensure that all gender groups are equally served in online library environments?
Double lives School and personal online information kept separate. They use different technologies for school and personal use Two email addresses: One is for communication with teachers, colleges, and employers. The other is for “fun:” contact with friends and for Facebook feeds. Official email includes real name not cute screen name to show adults a more professional side than the side she shows friends when online.
Double lives Would they friend teachers on Facebook? “It’s creepy” (the idea of a teacher seeing a student’s profile) My parents are “technologically-challenged,” so I call them – for my friends, I text and use Facebook Students use email for contact with colleges, texting to talk with friends because it’s the quickest. Email is “less personal,” others “can’t see your profile,” so they use it to communicate with teachers. Agreement within the group, teens use email for communication with teachers; it’s “much more official.”
Relationships: Especiallyimportant for romantic relationships to be announced & updated on Facebook: “If it’s not on Facebook, they’re not a real item” “Are they really going out if they’re not ready to acknowledge it [on Facebook]?” “It’s not really over until you break up on Facebook” Two of the 10 teens in the room had met their current boy/girl friend or girlfriend via either MySpace or Facebook. “Facebook stalking” – everyone in the group recognized the term – means using Facebook to get a first impression of someone without their knowing about it Online flirting: there’s less risk involved in flirting online; but reduced conversational cues can make online flirting more confusing and less clear than in person.
Migrations On Facebook: “It’s not a complete eyesore,” like MySpace was. On MySpace, most friend requests come “from strangers.”
All groups described described a “big shift between MySpace and Facebook” with a “wave of people transferring over.” Why? MySpace lost this reputation, and it subsequently lost users. MySpace = less private – the information there is very “public” Facebook = “more secure” “A website like Facebook or MySpace can only survive if it has a reputation as being safe.”
MySpace: Some stopped using because of the design features, which were “so overwhelming” – it’s much less work to design and update your profile on Facebook. Too much work required to make a page (too much design work, prefer a much simpler layout) Male: used to use MySpace – then one time received messages from people he didn’t know, so he felt uncomfortable and shut down his account Frequent system updates required users to relearn the system
General agreement--drastic reduction in the use of house phones. Increased cell phone use, texting. Texting is a constant activity. “I don’t like talking on the phone. I’m a texting person. It’s to the point.”
One boy said that he only resorts to calling if the person he is contacting doesn’t answer the text message. Using the house phone is “out” – “It’s more private to use your cell phone.” The teens worry that parents or someone else might pick up an extension and hear a private conversation Only uses the home phone for long distance calling; It’s cheaper just to have a cell phone and no land line. “I’ll literally sit next to it [the phone] and let it ring. I’ll wait for someone to walk past me and answer it.” Why because “It’s never for me.” “No one that I would want or need to talk to ever calls my house phone” so I don’t answer it. “If they don’t have my cell phone number, I don’t want to talk to them.”
Female: She keeps Facebook on all night while she’s doing other things online. Especially texts and uses Facebook at the same time. Boy: talking on cell phone and texting via cell phone; texting is the best method because it’s quick enables him to multitask while communicating; “I usually have five tabs open at once.” Has music on while checking Facebook, checking sports scores, watching videos on YouTube, texting, and emailing—often all at once. Also plays games and does homework at the same time while listening to music and engaging in the other activities previously listed. “Always connected” to girlfriend and to a small group of friends; likes to watch TV while texting with friends. Usually multitasking while using the Internet; at once uses Twitter, Gmail, NYT website, and does homework.
Why or why not multitask? “Bored” the word recurred over and over. Group: They are always listening to music when engaging in any of these online behaviors: “You can do anything with music on.” Except when they are reading, they listen to music all the time. Group agreed that quality of their work (especially homework) would be improved if they stopped multitasking, but then they would probably be bored.
Facebook friendships are more fleeting. Kids in school will friend you but ignore you in person Rules for friendship
Differentiation between “real friends” and “Facebook friends.” Often hear he’s “just a Facebook friend.” Teens don’t really use Facebook to make new friends, but more to strengthen existing friendships Facebook for old friends; texting for current friends Male: says no to people who make friend requests if he doesn’t know them Group generally agreed that they only friend people they know, preferably –not exclusively -- people they talk to face-to-face – exception = will friend people they don’t know who are going to go the same colleges next year – “It’s supportive” – want to have friends already in place when they arrive at college Group generally agreed that they will only friend an unknown person if it’s a friend of a friend
Texting is for close friends; Facebook is for more distant acquaintances. “The people who you text are your real friends. The people on Facebook are your Facebook friends.” And “The people you text are the people you hang out with.” Everyone in the group agreed with these three statements. This boy likes to use Facebook for someone he hasn’t talked to for a while; generally knows his cell phone texting friends better than the friends he communicates with on Facebook; “If I haven’t seen you before, I’m not going to be your Facebook friend.” “You get to know them a little more than you want to” – reason to block or unfriend unfamiliar Facebook friends. One boy says he plans “to clean out his Facebook closet” and pare down his friend list to just people he knows reasonably well in the off-line world, both for privacy and annoyance reasons. (Tired of getting status updates on people he doesn’t know.)
Always connected? Female: has a Blackberry. Emails with her phone. Repeatedly used the word “addicted” to describe her online communication behaviors. Female: Has Facebook open on her phone constantly. Kept checking it during the interview. Female: communication via computer use is “addicting” – her parents have given her a time limit to reduce her use Male: learned about Facebook from his big sister; now texts “all day long” Male: uses text all day, even in school; can text in class without disrupting the class Boy: checks Facebook every day – “I stay logged on. I don’t even log off.”
Female: Mom’s family uses MySpace; Dad’s family uses Facebook. Suggests influence of family and community on choice of utilities. Uneasiness among group members with adults seeing their personal online content Generational difference: “We’re more willing to open up and share about our lives” than older generations. Using the house phone is “out” – “It’s more private to use your cell phone.” The teens worry that parents or someone else might pick up an extension and hear a private conversation Question: Do you friend your parents in social networking sites? Answer: no. “It adds another layer of connectivity that you don’t need.”
Female: uses Facebook to plan events with sports teams Male: uses Facebook to plan senior week vacation No one else but the people in the group can see the plans being made, so it’s secure Using Facebook to invite people to graduation parties and family reunions; “You can get in touch with your aunt easier on Facebook than with the phone.”
Getting ready for college In each group, students reported finding their college roommates through Facebook Used after the decision was made to connect to other in-coming students: “It made me more excited about going there.” One teen had joined a Facebook group for students with his major. It provides advice on how to prepare for college. Plan to use it to find friends while at college and to stay in touch with high school friends, Will friend people they don’t know who are going to go the same colleges next year – “It’s supportive” – want to have friends already in place when they arrive at college Male: got a list of incoming freshman who will play soccer at his college; looked them up on Facebook; picked one to room with (happened to be someone he knew years ago) – Facebook “breaks that barrier of awkwardness” to have met online first before arriving at college “When I find out who my roommate is, the first thing I’m going to do is look him up on Facebook.”
One boy connected with a group of incoming freshmen via Facebook and met with them in person at a local mall a few months before the start of school so that he’ll have a group of friends when school begins. One of the boys uses YouTube to look at the research going on at the colleges he is interested in going to. Facebook can show you what the professors and the programs are like.
Current use of blogs and wikis and Nings: Perceived as for school stuff, little transfer Not used for their own purposes; only used when required to do so for school. Little participation in wikis or blogs other than required school use Used a soccer team wiki For school use, the group would rather collaborate face-to-face on homework as opposed to using collaborative educational software.
School work and online communication The group agreed that the quality of their work (especially homework) would be improved if they stopped multitasking, but then they would probably be bored. Response: One of the boys says he is usually multitasking while using the Internet; at once uses Twitter, g-mail, NYT website, and does homework. Extra-curricular groups: Facebook is good for creating a group (sports, clubs, etc.) and keeping in touch with group members. Use texting and Facebook during school hours, mostly passing information about what’s going on in school.
Social contact reduced: pushback Female: personal contact is reduced with increased technology use; she spends more time texting now than talking on the phone Technology use can “take time away from hanging out with your friends” – time is spent with the technology instead of on the socialization Boy: Used to have Facebook and MySpace accounts, but doesn’t use them now because they’re not physically active enough, and he would rather be doing physical things; likes the phone because “I’ve got to hear you.”
Privacy/security Concerns about loss of privacy. One participant suggested that “Too much personal business is put online.” Girl: only accepts friend invitations from people she recognizes – “You really are letting them in to a lot of personal things,” so it’s a security risk to friend strangers. Some uneasiness among the group members with adults seeing their personal online content Male: used to use MySpace – then one time received messages from people he didn’t know, so he felt uncomfortable and shut down his account Boy: used to have a MySpace page, but it was hacked – someone put a racist posting on his page and “I got rid of my MySpace right there.” He still uses MySpace without an account to find music, but he no longer has a personal page. Boy: he’s an artist; doesn’t post his art online because then “anyone can use it” (intellectual property concerns)
Privacy concerns: the groups expressed worries about pictures of themselves engaged negative behaviors being online; one boy said he tries to limit both his wild behavior and the pictures of it to reduce the likelihood that potentially damaging pictures will appear online.
The group worries about risky behaviors being documented and posted online: “Anything digital…sticks around.” There is worry about risky behaviors within the group and the worry that the proof that it took place might last online for a very long time.
Self-protection from information overload Level of Facebook use varies; “Sometimes it gets annoying, and I will stop using Facebook for a while to get relief. Then I start up again.” “It’s a matter of over-communication,” and “It’s intimidating.” “There’s too much inter-connectivity. Overall, it’s just become too much.” “At a certain point, it does get to be too much.” Texting = too much work, physically difficult
The art of texting Text conversations can go on “anywhere, at any time.” Text conversations can go on for days, beyond when one person hangs up. “You can do clever things with words,” like wordplays and humorous spellings; with text messages “you can keep them forever” and “have a record of the communication” meaning that the medium enables information archiving Texting is “more fun than a phone call” – because there cannot be long pauses in a spoken conversation, which means that “a phone call is a lot of pressure.”
Textiquette Not offended if people text while talking to them face-to-face, as long as the verbal conversation is kept “fluid.” But, if they don’t know the topic of the text messages, they can be annoyed worrying that the person is gossiping about them right in front of them to the person on the other end of the text messages.
On frequency Boy: checks Facebook every day – “I stay logged on. I don’t even log off.” Male: “You’re always connected to everyone. Everyone always has their phones on.”Texting is an almost constant activity, but talking on phones is greatly diminished Use texting and Facebook during school hours, mostly passing information about what’s going on in school. About texting: “It’s a habit.” “It’s routine.” Has been on Facebook every day for the last year or two – It’s “something to do with your spare time.” Sends upwards of 20 or 30 text messages a day – has a small group of close friends—five or six people—with whom he exchanges text messages. Sends about 30 text messages a day – does most of his texting with the same three or four people (close friends). Spends about an hour a day on Facebook actively, but leaves Facebook on in the background for three to three and a half hours a day while doing other things online. Sends and receives more text messages during the weekends and communicates with a broader group of friends during weekends than during the week, as much of the weekend communication is related to social plans for the weekend with a larger group of friends. Boy: Only spends about 10 minutes a day actively using Facebook, but according to his phone bills, sends and receives more than 1000 text messages each month.
Male: texts all day, even in school; can text in class without disrupting the class Male: doesn’t like to make plans with friends using Facebook or MySpace; find texting and calling to be more reliable for making specific plans Male: Texting is the best method because it’s quick enables him to multitask while communicating; can “do two things at once” Texting because it’s the easiest; uses texting for communication with both family and friends; also likes Facebook; doesn’t like calling on the phone: “I honestly don’t know why I don’t call people.” Use texting and Facebook during school hours, mostly passing information about what’s going on in school. You have to be at a computer to use Facebook, but can text just with a phone If you don’t feel like talking to them, you can text, which is faster
On Gender Group generally agreed that the girls text more. Female: “We have so many more questions.” Girls take more pictures than boys; girls post more pictures and create more photo albums than boys; the pictures are mostly of themselves and their friends Girls use more emoticons; girls hold longer conversations
Social / political activism Can join Facebook groups, and some of the students do, but not a lot of interest in social networking for social/political activism Question: Use for purposes other than social relationships? Four of the seven have joined Facebook groups, but generally the teens doubted that such groups will have an impact on any causes or issues – “I don’t feel like much is going to come out of it.” There is no interaction with any of the other group members, just the initial signing on to the groups Political or social activist uses of social networking? General agreement that they might join a political or social issues group on Facebook, but usually the involvement goes no further than signing up.
Phone fear? Phoning is less familiar. No landlines in households Someone else might be listening. No one will call them who has an alternate way. I don’t want to talk to anyone who doesn’t have my real contact information.
Public libraries focus on phone and chat reference. Should we be texting reference & readers’ advisory?
Pushback? Too much media/computer time taking away from face to face time Focus on people first and the media second
Should we cross the beams? Ghostbusters (1984) Columbia Tristar Home Video. Dir. Ivan Reitman
Join them where they live? Facebook presence important? Widgets on the Facebook pages? Show that we can communicate in their familiar landscapes? Communication overload—more seamless connection across the various media
Instruction? They want help: protecting privacy and security online How are we helping?
Follow the birds! Learn about how they communicate first. Keep in contact—kids only ones who can describe their own communication landscape.
Looking at social media with a critical eye–social stratification It wasn't just anyone who left MySpace to go to Facebook. In fact, if we want to get to the crux of what unfolded, we might as well face an uncomfortable reality... What happened was modern day "white flight." Whites were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. The educated were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from the suburbs were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those who deserted MySpace did so by "choice" but their decision to do so was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic. boyd, danah. 2009. "The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online." Personal Democracy Forum, New York, June 30.