15 July 2009

Fifteen-year-old writes about social media, adults set a-Twitter

At first, I thought this article was some sort of joke from the Onion: “Media execs rocked by 15-year-old's blunt, blistering analysis.”
Unfortunately, it is true. Sadly, sadly true.
The 15-year-old is a Morgan Stanley intern named Matthew Robson. Matthew’s observations on social media and how his peers use it is apparently causing a lot of waves at Morgan Stanley’s European Media Group, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. One executive went so far as to say that Matthew’s work was “one of the clearest and most through-provoking insights we have seen.”
What exactly has these executives buzzing? Matthew’s observations state that teenagers don’t use Twitter, read newspapers, and hate advertisements. Plus, they like free music. While I don’t disagree with the veracity of these opinions, I find it really curious and odd that older people who supposedly know better are giving them such weight. Is it really such a revelation to hear that teenagers don’t like to read newspapers? Or that Twitting via cell phone costs money, and therefore isn’t done?
Except for his opinion that many teenagers have never bought a CD, I don’t think that what Matthew writes about is particularly new, clever, or groundbreaking (see for yourself: www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jul/13/twitter-teenage-media-habits). What I find very interesting is how the words of a single 15-year-old are being taken as some sorts of revelatory gospel prophesy by media teams who, until a few years ago, dictated how communication was done. Now, with the rise of social media, the game has changed, and like any adults, they are desperate to find out how the mythical teenager communicates. To hear some of the quotes from the executives in the article, you would think they were dealing with gorillas that had been taught sign language:
‘We published it,' said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley's European media team. ‘We've had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day.' He said the note had generated five or six times more responses than the team's usual research.”

Ultimately, what this goes to show me is that, despite changing times and lifestyles, teenagers remain and mysterious to adults as ever, and adults, being adults, will do nearly anything to get their foot in the door leading to the path of young, aloof coolness.

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