‘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.



5 Friendship values for youth marketers

Friendship is about truth

Just reading through McCann Worldgroups recent ‘Truth about youth’ study which had some interesting findings. I’m going to blog separately about some of their key themes from the global study of 7,000 teens and 20 somethings, but one thing which immediately caught my attention was their POV on the top 5 values young people seek in their friends. I thought this was particularly useful as youth brands today are constantly thinking about what type of ‘friendship’ they need to have on social platforms like Facebook/Twitter to drive engagement. These are the top 5 values and my POV  on them:

1. TRUTHFULNESS – apparently 2x more important than the next value, identifying that this is a generation defined by authentic human connections. This makes total sense to me as today we’re living in the Age of Reality where everything is about transparency and real time truth vs the 80’s and 90’s where youth culture was about Image. Brands can’t con young people as they’re bullshit detecters are finely tuned and they’re not afraid to bring you down.

2. GENUINE – being worthy of trust is critical for friendship, saying who you are and not abusing this trust is paramount. Brands that are ‘liked’ in the social world must ensure that stay genuine and don’t abuse that trust. Brands who try and stretch the friendship by ‘faking’ it risk alienating young people. It’s important to stay true to who you are and give young people something to belong to and identify with in culture.

3. SOCIABLE – for young people today in the social economy ‘you are what you share’ and your social status goes up or down based on the frequency and the quality of what you contribute to your tribe. So brands need to be sociable at the right time, in the right way, giving these youngsters content to share which increases their social status. But don’t try and be the ‘life of the party’, they’ll shut you down in a second.

4. MATURITY – young people love having mates they can look up to for advice and inspiration. Probably a function of kids always ‘ageing up’, they’re looking for brands who respect them and treat them like an adult. They’re also looking for brands with a deeper sense of purpose and contribution back to society.

5. HUMBLE – no one likes a show off, and young people hate brands who clutter up their news feeds on Facebook and bombard them, overstating their importance in their lives. Be useful, contextually relevant and entertaining allowing these teens to express themselves and you’ll maintain the love. In my opinion Converse is a brand who ‘gets it’ in the Facebook world, 16m+ fans yet they don’t bombard you with one way messages, they are humble and invite you into interesting conversations when appropriate.

I think these five values give marketers an interesting set of simple principles for how to behave in the social space and drive friendship.

Nike Chosen Crew Video Contest

A nice little comp for the action sports tribe from Nike to get ‘you and your crew’ to send in a video showing your skating,surfing, BMX’ing,  riding etc prowess – all with the hope of winning some dosh, product and rolling with  the Nike athletes for a while. Campaign lives here  It’s an obvious campaign extension off the ‘Chosen’ platform but I was expecting something a little more innovative and interactive from the guys at Nike. Looking forward to seeing the entries though.

Sneakerpedia – collaboration to create a real community

Absolutely love this initiative by Footlocker, a great example of community collaboration. They’ve created sneakerpedia, a social wiki where there sneaker freak fans submit  pics of their fav kicks to create & build the Sneakerpedia community. It’s built around a genuine youth culture passion point, offers simple utility and will drive strong engagement with the Footlocker brand. Just goes to show, that brands need to act as facilitatators and let their fans share their passion for the products they sell. Well done Footlocker.

Nike 6.0 ‘Chosen’ surf premiere

Just came across this cool video which I believe premieres tonight in the NBA finals to launch, ‘Chosen’ the new surf doco for Nike’s official entry into the world of surf culture through their Nike 6.0 action sports brand. Fan the page and get access to the premiere. Will be interesting to see how Nike goes about entering surf culture so late in the game with such tribal brand following. Their first attempt at entering skateboard culture was a flop, it wasn’t until they created authentic associations with retailers and designers that they earned their cred. Am sure they’ve learnt their lesson. Eager to see how they go.

Nike 6.0 ‘The Pool’ unleashing BMX culture

Loving this initative from Nike 6.0 to turn an old pool in East London into a massive indoor BMX expression park. They ran a comp with 40 of the world’s best riders and now the ‘The Pool’ is open to the public until June 12.  Awesome experiential event based idea. Well done Nike 6.0

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.