Social media is second nature for Millennials. As a consequence, we often take our intuitive use of technology for granted - what we see as a natural extension of our everyday activities, amazes those for whom social media is more of a hobby, or even a career.
I've had a growing number of conversations to attest to this, and to prevent any future misunderstanding (read: disbelief) I wanted to illustrate some of the more tangential uses of social communities I’ve encountered.
Tinder: Not just (or even) for dating
After one student created a Tumblr page for the concept, students at American University Washington began using Tinder as a means of survival when their meal plan runs out, thanks to its incorporation of location-based, opt-in connections. Similarly, a restaurant advertising their delivery service was able to engage nearby Tinder users over their mutual love of tacos, pizza, and bacon. Instances like these shed light on how Tinder might be able to monetize their growing user base.
As anyone who uses the app will tell you: “I just got Tinder to see what it was about” – but there may be more than pride to that claim – as of this January 96% of users had never before used a dating app. Many younger users views Tinder as more of a game to kill time than a viable model for finding love. Now there’s reason to believe Tinder might eventually give you a better chance of finding dinner than a relationship.
SnapChat: A valid social network with a bad rap?
This app might have a bad rap for inappropriate content but in the case of SnapChat, Millennial's are genuinely embracing an experience that must be unpacked and absorbed in less than 10 seconds. This is a rare sensation for a generation that has constant access to near-infinite information. Putting as much as 45 minutes of work into a 10 second deliverable even has popular SnapChat-er Dasha Battelle thinking of a career in graphic design after her workplace frustrations led to elaborate SnapChat drawings.
I’m lucky enough to work in an environment that sponsors my experimentation with technology, but there’s a good chance that the Millennials in your workplace are also using SnapChat as a means of communicating off the grid. Like Tinder, SnapChat owes its success to the public’s recent objection to online permanence.
SnapChat also shows great potential for creative commercial use, one example of which is the World Wildlife Fund’s #LastSelfie series.
Twitter: Ripe for creative adventures
Millennials on Twitter are most responsive to a real-time interaction. Even better is the opportunity to watch it unfold; these two features make for undoubtedly the most personal way to tell a story to the entire world simultaneously. It’s 140 character limit makes many tweets take the form of a condensed headline of a thought. Some storytellers have chosen to focus more on their tweets’ community element and less on its length restrictions, producing more engaging on-going narratives.
Every twenty-something has read the transcript of the #roofbreakup that was live-tweeted by a New-York comedian, as a couple decided a NYC rooftop was a suitable venue for their marital therapy.
Another such Twitter story is still being written – or rather illustrated, using MS Paint – by the creator of the popular TV show ‘Adventure Time’ and follows the method of what you know either as “Choose your own adventure” books or “Text adventure” games. The adventure starts in a prison cell and the actions of the protagonist are directed by the tweets of followers – which are then translated into illustrations. What follows is an irreverent escape attempt and a great deal of fun for everyone who participates.
Reddit and Imgur: More like a community, less like a message board
These sites have attracted tremendously loyal communities because they act as content meritocracies - market economies of media if you will. There is no room here for the type of blatant self-promotion that has pervaded our Facebook and Twitter feeds, by both our personal acquaintances and favoured business partners.
For those Millennials who are savvier on the “interwebs”, most of the popular (read: the big 5) social channels are not actually the platforms that provide the most value or even inspire the emotion that you look for in a community. Reddit would be considered by most users to be closer to a “community” than Facebook, or even Twitter. This results from a series of social norms, inside jokes, and a karma system that more accurately rewards users’ contributions to the community.
The influence of this community was one of the reasons Barack Obama held an “Ask Me Anything” on the site last year. It’s the comments that really drive these sites' communities, and after a couple visits you’ll understand why one post was able to raise $55,000 in less than a day for a cancer patient. This might be contrasted with the backlash against social media campaigns whose "likes" never materialize into any real action.
For many, Reddit can be overwhelming at first, and it can suck you down any number of rabbit holes the longer you stay on the site reading posts on (literally) anything. For those looking to understand the community aspect in a simpler format, Reddit’s sister site Imgur offers interesting posts centred around a visual element, which speeds up the browsing process.
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein
It's not clear that any kind of generalization can be made about the way Millennials use social media. In fact it's a running joke on Imgur that very few users are comfortable around the opposite sex. This surely contrasts with the conventional Tinder user who is, ostensibly, actively seeking romance.
Millennials have everything when they need it - it's what makes a SnapChat's brevity so enticing, a Tinder connection so exciting, and what makes you wait (the Millennial four-letter-word) for the next tweet in a story you're following. I don't think any of us expect any useful information from these channels, but we don't care, if the experience is worth it.
Drop me a line in the comments if you have another example of social media being pivoted by it's users.