A new Pew research study on teenagers' social media habits has a few surprising results. Teens are still on The Facebook en masse, with Instagram and Snapchat close behind. But 33 per cent reported using Google+. Tied with Twitter! Come again?
Google's attempt at building a social network hasn't gotten much popular traction beyond the tech-minded set (our beloved readers are fans). But teenagers? This appeared unlikely. And indeed, the Google+ numbers are worth a closer look.
For one, use doesn't mean regular use. Pew Associate Research Director Amanda Lenhart explained that the study looked at two data points: whether you use a service at all, and then whether it is the service that you use most often. When the numbers were broken down like this, 33 per cent of teenagers in the study reported using Google+, but only 5 per cent reported that they used it the most.
And there's another explanation for why over a third of tweens are on Google+: the social network's forced integration with YouTube and other Google services.
As Lenhart pointed out, "[w]hat's challenging about the Google + data is knowing how much teens distinguish it from the suite of other Google products -- many of which are essentially bundled together from the users' perspective, and some of which a portion of teens may now be asked to use for school -- think using Google docs to work on a document with classmates."
In other words, teens probably aren't thinking about the Google's social network when answering the question about Google+ usage -- but they probably aren't thinking about schoolwork, either. In a move that made no one on the internet happy, Google strong-armed a YouTube/Google+ integration in 2013, making it so you were required to have a Google+ account in order to comment and utilise YouTube functionalities that were once independent from the Google mothership.
Teenagers' use of Google+ is no doubt bound to YouTube, where they feed a vast ecosystem of "celebrity" YouTubers I've never heard of that makes me feel old and yelling about kids on my lawn. As for why such a high percentage of teenagers use Twitter, I've got nothin'. Nobody should be using Twitter.