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Facebook isn’t cool anymore. It’s the website where your older relatives hang out. It’s the place where people post political screeds, religious diatribes, and personal drama you don’t want to read. It’s seen as a service that doesn’t care about privacy, one that constantly wants more and more of your data to sell and profit from. So what are the kids using these days?
Interestingly enough, teens are moving away from social networks like Facebook that are linked to their real identity and toward other networks where they use pseudonyms that aren’t their real names and avatars that aren’t their real faces. Many users appear to be moving away from the trend of oversharing information linked to their real name and moving back to an older pseudonym model, as used by previously popular social platforms like AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger, which didn’t demand real names or make so much content public.
Tumblr – Microblogging
Tumblr isn’t the only microblogging website, but it’s the most popular one. On Tumblr, you can choose any name you want — probably not one linked to your real name — and set up any number of “microblogs.” Unlike standard blogs, microblogs allow you to easily share short bits of content. You could share a photo in one post, a video in another post, and a short message in the next one. The interface isn’t as complicated as a normal blog’s interface, so it’s quick to get up and running.
You can then search public blogs for topics of interest or funny and entertaining content and follow them, getting updates from all the microblogs you follow in one place. You could seek out other people interested in topics you’re interested in. Or, you could only follow private blogs and share your posts exclusively with a small circle of friends. Either way, you likely aren’t using your real name and are not talking only about things happening in your real life. Many Tumblr users also reshare (reblog) content and entire Tumblr blogs may just be made up of “reshares” of content posted elsewhere.
There’s some evidence that Tumblr usage is dropping after it was purchased by Yahoo, but it’s clear that Tumblr’s style of short blog posts is popular. We wouldn’t be surprised to see another big microblogging service replace Tumblr if Yahoo handled Tumblr as badly as they handled Flickr.
Instagram – Photo Sharing
Facebook may have purchased Instagram, but Instagram is still somewhat separate from Facebook. It’s also a huge service that’s still eating into much of what Facebook does.
Instagram isn’t just about silly photo filters (and if you thought it is, you need these tips for Instagram newbies). It’s a social network where you get to view photos (and now videos) shared by your friends and share your own photos. There are no political rants, links to web pages people are sharing, or messages asking you to join Farmville and milk virtual cows. It’s just a social network for photos shared by your friends depicting what they’re doing right now and allowing you to share your own photos. It’s like Facebook’s photo-sharing feature without all the other stuff, and with primarily younger users using smartphones, not your older relatives. Of course, you can also follow big names on Instagram and share your own photos publicly, too.
Snapchat – Self-destructing Video Chats
Snapchat is another trendy app. With Snapchat, you exchange photos and short video messages from your smartphone with other people you know. You can also add text messages. The idea is that the messages are “self-destructing,” so you can only view them once. Of course, it would be possible to view the messages again, if only by pointing a camera at the smartphone and capturing a video of them playing. You have to make an extra effort to capture these messages — they’re self-destructing by default.
Yes, some people likely use Snapchat for sexting, just as people do the same thing with standard text messages. However, Snapchat is a way to have a real-time conversation with someone, sending pictures and videos back and forth. Like a face-to-face conversation, there’s no record kept of the conversation unless you go out of your way to record it.
WhatsApp and Others – Messaging
Apps like WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber are becoming popular around the world. They essentially function as text-message applications, but they work only connecting to Wi-Fi or mobile data connections. They use the Internet, not the expensive text-messaging system. Such apps allow users who don’t want to spend money on overpriced text message fees to have text-message-like conversions — one-to-one or in a group — on their phones for free, at least when connected to Wi-Fi networks.
While they’re primarily for text messages, you can also use WhatsApp and similar apps to share photos, video and audio messages.
Twitter – Public Conversations
There’s some evidence that Twitter is becoming more popular, with usage among teens doubling in the past year. Twitter might seem a bit stuffy, like one of the established social networks, but it has much in common with some of the upstarts. Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t demand your real name — you can use anything you like as your Twitter handle. You can then engage publicly with other people about topics of interest or set your Twitter account to private and have your tweets visible only to your friends, although most Twitter usage is public. You don’t even have to send your own tweets — you can follow other accounts and just view them.
Compared to Facebook, Twitter is seen as a place with fewer adults and less “real-life drama.” It’s also a much simpler social network, without Facebook’s constantly changing profile pages, confusing privacy settings, and no demands for your real name or identity. There’s also no drama around friend requests — you just follow someone you want to see messages from and they can follow you back if they want to see messages from you.
These aren’t the only interesting newer social-networks. There’s also Twitter’s Vine, which enables quick and easy sharing of six-second videos, Path, which offers a more private social diary, and Pinterest, which allows users to “pin” things they like to a virtual board and show them off. Many of these social tools are also going mobile-only or mobile-first. Mobile games are gradually replacing Facebook games for casual gamers, too.
Did we forget to mention any popular new online social activity? Leave a comment below and tell us!