Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

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3d_american-girls.jpg“Instagram. Whisper. Yik Yak. Vine. YouTube. Kik. Ask.fm. Tinder. The dominant force in the lives of girls coming of age in America today is social media.”

I just finished the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. This is an important book if you want to learn how the young generation—both girls and boys—use their smartphones. It’s an essential read if you have teenagers or tweens in your life.

Sales interviewed more than two hundred girls between the ages of 13 and 19 from all over the United States to learn how they interact with their world through social networking. She also interviewed parents and boys to get their take as well.

Much of the book focuses on the explosive power of living through the hormone-raging teen years while constantly sharing on public social media sites and privately via chat apps. It’s tough enough to be a teenager in any era, but in today’s world they must also focus on their online profiles, feed an insatiable appetite for selfies, maintain constant two-way interaction with peers, and manage the incessant need for likes.

Many girls look up to online celebrities like Kylie and Kendall Jenner as role models for how to behave. They copy celebrity actions in their online personas -- pose in revealing clothing (or no clothing), make the duckface, stick out tongues Miley Cyrus style.

As young as 13, some girls find themselves victims of cyber-bullying and advances by boys who ask for nude pictures and send unwanted “dick pics” in return. When they get a few years older, teenagers shun traditional dating for hookups via sites like Tinder.

Their phones are so important that half of teenagers surveyed by Common Sense Media say admit they are addicted.

Marketers must understand the young generation

Miley_Cyrus_tongue.jpgIf you’re marketing a product or service to Generation Z now, this is a must read book. But importantly for all of us, these young people will be our employees, customers, and colleagues soon.

I learned a great deal from the book.

For example, I hadn’t used the Yik Yak app before and found it to be valuable. Yik Yak is a location-based social network that helps people discover what’s going on in local communities.

The demographic skews very young, and most people use it to connect to others in their high school or college. Unlike other networks, most users remain anonymous.

I find Yik Yak to be a fascinating way to see what’s on the mind of young people on in a particular city. For example, it has been really interesting to monitor what young people are saying about the various U.S. Presidential candidates on primary day in their state.

Marketers trying to understand a local audience might also make use of Yik Yak.

We’re going through the most important communications revolution in human history. The 2000s to 2020s are decades bringing profound changes in the way we humans interact.

Regular readers know this is a theme I’m constantly exploring on this blog and in my live talks around the world. I highly recommend American Girls for anyone who wants to understand how our ongoing revelation is playing out for teenagers.

Credit: Miley Cyrus photo via her @mileycyrus Instagram