Reality Check: Teens Still Don't Tweet

The way it’s overtaken the TV newsrooms and celebrity gossip pages, you’d think that Twitter was the be-all-and-end-all of social media. But a new report from the Pew Research Center cited in this Washington Post article says otherwise: teens are pretty ambivalent about using Twitter, with only 8 percent of those online reporting regular use of the social networking tool.

This confirms anecdotal findings of teens and young adults who create a Twitter account to see what it’s all about, only to lose interest after a short burst of Tweets. There have also been a number of previous studies suggesting that teens were not taking to the service, including this Nielsen study. Without any incentives – like an established network of friends – to keep them hanging around, teens have no reason to add Twitter to their repertoire of digital communication tools.

As one writer articulated in a post on the Ypulse blog last year, “As long as teens can update their status via MySpace and Facebook for their friends as well as IM and text, Twitter doesn’t really add to the existing technology.” According to the latest study, those 8 percent who found Twitter to be useful mostly use it for following the latest celebrity news from their favorite Tweeting stars.

Upon further inspection, this low number might not be so surprising. Despite the enormous success of Facebook in the teen demographic, other online social tools, like blogs and Twitter, are used as a means of expression by only a small number of online teens. A possible reason is the way connections are made on these networks. With Facebook, teens can easily add their friends using full name searches, while blogs and Twitter, on the other hand, are more difficult to navigate using only a contact’s name. The broadcast-like nature of blogs and Twitter might also be an impediment to their success in the younger demographic: it takes time and effort to build up a conversation on these structurally narrow platforms, while the conversations on Facebook are naturally diverse, active, and gratifying for a teen looking for a quick-fix on the updates on his or her friends and family.