The social media lives of teens

Mary Choi’s Wired feature on the social media lives of teens is utterly fascinating. I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with this bit from Like. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens:

Then there is the rule about likes and comments. According to Lara and Sofia, when your friend posts a selfie on Instagram, there’s a tacit social obligation to like it, and depending on how close you are, you may need to comment. The safest option, especially on a friend’s selfie, is the emoji with the heart eyes. Or a simple “so cute” or “so pretty.” It’s too much work to do anything else. If there’s any deviation, “you have to interpret the comment,” Sofia says. “If it’s nice, you’re like, is this really nice or are you …” “… I don’t know,” finishes Lara. Is the comment sincere? Or slyly sarcastic? Formulaic responses breed zero confusion. Instagram is not a place for tone or irony.

The whole article is full of examples like this that just makes me wonder how complicated it must be to be a teen right now. Of course, it’s not complicated to them, it just seems that way to us old folk. But seriously:

But back to the ladies. After a few mutual photo likes, the flirtation often escalates to emoji. If an emoji with the heart eyes gets another one in return, he says, you’re good. Other positive responses: an ellipsis thought-bubble to convey that she’s thinking about you; the bashful see-no-evil monkey. “‘Oh, thank you! I appreciate it’ is what I get from that emoji,” he says. Any of these responses means he’ll take it to DM (as in direct message). Other emoji are suboptimal. “The thinky face is like, ‘What are you doing commenting on my pictures?’” He says this isn’t a hard no, but it’s not great. The worst emoji — easily — is one you may not expect. “The smiley face,” says Ahmad with a pained expression. “Yeah, that’s the ‘Thank you, but I’m not interested.’”

I did do quite a double-take when I read this though:

Ubakum loves her [Android] phone. Deeply. iPhones for her are too easy, a little basic. “I’m not a fan of user-friendliness.”

I don’t really know what to make of that. It’s a fascinating statement, and I wish I could follow up to understand the sentiment more. If it’s true that a new generation of users don’t want products to be easy to use, what does that mean for us as designers? My head hurts.

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