Kids These Days: In Praise Of Trivia

I had a fascinating conversation with a young person and it gave me a new insight into how different people use social media.

Like a lot of young people, her Facebook stream has its fair share of adults mixed in. There’s her parents, and some of her parents’ friends, and other relatives.All jumbled up.

She was complaining (in a good-natured way) about the adults. “They’re always posting such serious stuff,” she said. “They sound like essay questions. Who cares what you think about some issue?”

I asked her what kinds of updates and links her and her friends were into. What were some of the recent updates?

  • Billy!! [Mays]
  • I’m at the mall. TXT me
  • [The name of a friend] <3

(The last emoticon is a heart, in case you couldn’t see it.)

What some might turn up their nose at as “trivia” – but in fact the social currency of a certain peer group.

Wear your Twitter badge with pride by Flickr user jmilles
"Wear your Twitter badge with pride" by Flickr user jmilles

Meanwhile, here’s the kind of stuff in my stream:

  • Listening to a report on Honduras.
  • My fourth grader just had an amazing end-of-year beach party.
  • Monday back at work after two weeks off.

Yeah, I guess that’s pretty dry.

Turns out there’s a deeper divide than some might expect. I used to have the feeling that people under, say, 25 found a lot of what the older set talk about to be sort of benignly boring. Little did I sense that, for some, it’s a misuse of the social medium. How dare we use it in such boring sand dull ways?

That got me thinking. I’m a bit of a social media evangelist, and as I talk to my peers about how they might use it, I often get skepticism. “Isn’t all this Facebook and Twitter just a bunch of fluff?” they’ll ask me. “Who cares whether I’m at the mall, or whether I’m happy or not?”

Meanwhile, younger folks are saying the same thing about these so-called “serious” issues.

I rescanned our respective Facebook streams, and saw that if you really looked, the divide is pretty stark. There’s one stream that’s all issues and links to thoughtful thinkers. There’s another that’s all light-seeming social interaction. Two very different worlds, coexisting in the same space.

I am frankly not sure what to make of its implications. I can think of a few things:

  • The fear that “it’s all trivia” from people resistant to using social media is baseless. Different groups of people are saying things with differing seriousness.
  • The “trivia” is an important way that some people interact, and to dismiss it as meaningless is irresponsible.
  • There’s room in a good social media platform for many different uses. That has implications for people building new communities: they need to be welcoming to different kinds of uses.
  • Everyone has a need to share trivia. Even people in the “serious” stream share meaningless comments about things they are planning on buying or where they live.

What “camp” are you in? More important, what other camps can you think of?

5 thoughts on “Kids These Days: In Praise Of Trivia”

  1. Another camp: “I don’t want to join Facebook/Twitter because I know I would get addicted and spend all my time on it.” I have only heard this from women.

  2. It’s funny, when I first joined Twitter I found a lot of people who warned me about making sure I always “added value” with my Tweets. And I took that warning very seriously, so seriously in fact that when someone would just want to chitchat I would often DM them and say, “oh, sorry, I don’t use Twitter for chitchat. Join me on Facebook instead. :)”. So even now, there’s a bunch of people that know ONLY to DM me if they have some “fluff” to say, so that my stream stays intelligent and insightful.

    But I have to say, that’s *tiring*. I’d really just like to talk the way I want to talk and not worry if my “stream” is full of fluff or not. Like, I’d like to talk about the serious issues *sometimes*, and then have idle chitchat *other* times, and never have to worry when they overlap. It does seem odd that that hasn’t happened yet.

  3. Lisa, I went thru the same evolution . . . I used to try to be all business-y. Now I am a lot more comfortable showing the range of “all that is Brad.” I know some people are turned off sometimes and that’s OK.

  4. I use it for both. My organization uses it as a component of our CSR media production…we chronicle the production and publicize our client’s community outreach projects. I also use it just to express an opinion and/or hear other peoples thoughts. Actually, I tire of tweets that only are about the business services that someone is offering. You don’t get any insight in to their personality. Part of social networking is getting to know people that you might want a business association with…just like in-person networking.

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