‘Status Update Stress’ (SUS) – an emerging issue for global youth

Will Status Update Stress 'SUS' become an epidemic amongst youth?

The past few weeks I’ve been chatting to a handful of UTS uni students about their ‘Facebook’ lives and the pressures they face to constantly ‘craft the right update for their social networks.

As we know FB and other social platforms have brought youth closer together and turbo charged their connections. However, I believe teens & 20 somethings in Australia (and no doubt in other countries) are becomingly increasingly anxious about their status updates and the need to ‘perform’.  The need for peer approval on social networks is a major pressure for teens. Forget sexual performance anxiety, how you interact and update on Facebook/Twitter is far more critical.  Teens are now judged by what and how often they share content, ideas and opinions.

Teens today aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for an admirer to ring, they’re constantly refreshing Facebook on their mobile waiting for someone to ‘like’ a post or pic or better still ‘tag me in a cool pic, cos then I don’t look vain’.

Whilst FB and other social networking platforms have fuelled their self expression, given them a voice and grown their friendship base  so to speak, there’s always a shadow to a new behaviour.

Youth today have begun to suffer from ‘status update stress’ or SUS. On Facebook and now Google + their lives are on show and it is an extremely competitive space where every status update is scrutinised, judged. As these teens put it:

“Constantly trying to make your status update interesting is really hard work..I just want to tell people what I’m up to but now I feel this pressure to always write something cool or witty…”

“Facebook used to be just about checking out party pics, tagging and all that..now you’ve got to be constantly posting cool stuff, otherwise people will think you’re boring and got nothing to say…”

“I often spend 5 minutes thinking about a clever or cool post that will get me noticed on my friends news feed..it’s like trying to stand out at school…you gotta stand out on FB by what you say or share…you gotta be ahead of the game…”

There is clearly an undercurrent of anxiousness as teens go about their day thinking about their status updates. Crafting your online identity is hard work, harder work than looking cool it would seem.  If they don’t make the right update they can be cyber bullied or even chastised by their peers. Worse still some teens are reverting to lying on Facebook to try and fit in. This is called the ‘facebook fake’ (lying about checking in at a party and getting found out) and if found out can be social suicide.

I believe many teens are now becoming anxious about how they interact with their social graph, and in some instances (for more introverted kids) fleeing social networking platforms altogether. It will be interesting to see if Google + ‘circles’ overcomes these issues as teens may feel they have less pressure on them as they update within certain ‘circles’ or communities.

The flow on effect of SUS is that many teens may start fleeing social networking platforms and this is an even bigger fear for teens as it means being ‘out of circulation’ and losing their social standing within their tribes.

It will be interesting to see the psychological effect the need for teens to constantly share their lives with the world and the resulting pressures and competitiveness that comes with that, especially as their friendship groups spread beyond their proximity based school, uni or neighbourhood friends.



Who is Generation C

A speech I gave last year at a digital conference here in Sydney on who is Generation C. This is Part 1 where I cover off who these digital natives are and their relationships with brands and each others. Part 2 will of the presentation which I’ll post shortly was about how to create conversation and tribal ideas with Gen C. Stay tuned.

Digital Natives: good with tech skills, weak with face to face skills?

Just came across an interesting article in the NY Times ‘Antisocial Networking’ about the debate over the effect of technology/mobiles and social media on the relationships between todays kids.

Although the topic is being widely studied by childhood relationship psychologists, there clearly hasn’t been any long term studies.  It’s an important thing for us to understand as good close relationships during childhood are essential in allowing kids to develop their emotions. I wrote a post last year about the mobile phone being used as a ‘social shield’ to protect kids from kids they don’t want to engage with (eg: they pretend they’re talking to someone when clearly they’re not). The many teens I’ve spoken to talk about their biggest fear is that they’re seen as a social outcast, and that the mobile phone is essential ‘oxygen’ to keep them connected to what’s going on and help them belong to the tribe.

Some interesting points from the post:

-Pew Research Center found that 50% of US teens (12-17yrs) send over 50 texts a day and 33% send over 100 texts a day

54% said they text their friends once a day, but only 33% said they talk to their friends face to face every day

The hypotheses in questions over technology’s impact on kids’ friendships/communication skills:

–          Whether the quality of their interactions are being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face to face time?

–          Is technology making teens less interested in face to face communication with their friends?

–          Todays youth may be missing out on experiences that help them develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions..after all, they say 80% of communication is non verbal

However on the flip side, many believe that technology is bring kids closer than ever

–          Keeps kids connected to other kids around the clock

–          The impersonal nature of texting and social networking makes it easier for shy kids to connect with others

As marketers who aim to create tribal following around our ideas in culture, we must ensure that when we’re engaging with young people, we’re bringing them together and connecting in both the digital and real world,  as social media is on’y interesting to teens because of what happens when you’re out and about.

Generation C- A look into their world

I wrote this deck late last year, my first presentation exploring the world of Generation C and how they’re different. In subsequent presentations I’ve spoken a lot about Gen C being the ‘connected collective’, whereas this presentation gives more of a quick overview of what this community of digital natives are into and some tips for marketers looking to engage them. These guys and girls are digital storytellers who use social media to express themselves and demonstrate their belonging to a community.

Addicted to Remixing and Mashing

Digital Natives treat content as collaborative as recombinant. Remixing is a digital behavior that is increasingly prevalent, as media production technologies facilitate easier and easier mashups . Gen C naturally understand that re-deploying pre-used content is an easier way to make their own things. ‘Control C’ is their most commonly used keyboard directive and they love anything open source that gives them the chance to play and participate. Check out youtube and search on ‘spoofs’ and you’ll see how many brands and movies have been spoofed and remixed by Gen C’ers.

Are you a ‘Snooper?

Facebook has turned Gen C into ‘Snoopers’. It’s not as intense as ‘stalking’, but the competitive pressure of always needing to be in the know means digital natives literally spend hours snooping around on their friends Facebook pages finding out ‘who is with who’, ‘who dumped who’, ‘who invited who’, ‘who went to what’ etc. This competitive pressure to be in the know and have the latest cultural capital within their community is a further example of their need to belong and the risk of social exclusion Gen C face if they don’t keep up with the Facebook crowd.