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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Social Networks Law Students Use

I've taught my Social Media Discovery seminar three times now, and each year I expect to be surprised by some new social media trend (will Kik come up? The now-struggling Yik Yak? GroupMe?). But two social networks consistently dominate among my students: Instagram and, even more so, ephemeral app Snapchat.

This anecdotal evidence lines up with industry trends. Stats show that most Instagram and Snapchat users are 24 and younger. And Snapchat recently surpassed Twitter with more daily users. Facebook, on the other hand, is attracting fewer young folks as its core audience is growing older.

From what I've gathered, many of my students tend to save Facebook for big life events or other safe-for-grandma posts. They may use messenger or check their news feeds regularly, but most of their social media interactions now happen on other platforms. Students also seem savvier about the digital footprint they are creating and how it may impact their career (though some are still shocked when we go over this chart of all the info Facebook compiles on us). Twitter still seems like a source of information for students, but only some tweet at all (whether public or private). Twitter, like Facebook, is not a top choice for communicating with others.

So why Instagram and Snapchat? Both are highly visual and emphasize pictures or video over text. Instagram has a clean and functional layout, with fun built-in tools for editing pictures. It allows comments and likes but its layout de-emphasizes these aspects. Snapchat's hook is its self-destruct model for content (stories disappear after a day; private messages within seconds). And it takes photo filters to a goofy extreme. Snapchat also does not allow visible likes and comments. Thus, while people can share stories broadly, Snapchat ultimately encourages private conversations that leave no trace (well, sorta--Snapchat has faced scrutiny for its privacy claims).

Realizing that Instagram and Snapchat take the lead for my students has motivated me to use more pictures and videos in class. And I am doing my best to accept that Snapchat -- and similar ephemeral apps -- are here to stay. This means my own research now includes some of the unique legal issues these apps pose (more on that later). 

Posted by Agnieszka McPeak on December 20, 2016 at 12:18 PM in Information and Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink


Good point about Facebook's feel. I think moving to mobile was a rough transition for Facebook, especially with its ad model. Snapchat is built for mobile, so it certainly feels less clunky. And Snapchat definitely doesn't take itself too seriously -- it's designed to be more fun.

Posted by: Agnieszka McPeak | Dec 24, 2016 2:03:09 PM

I suspect that students are gravitating toward Snapchat because it is more fun than Facebook, and it seems more private.

I'm hardly a millennial, but after using twitter and snapchat, Facebook feels slow and sort of "corporate" to me--pushing certain content and I have no idea why. And all the press about Facebook's use of private data--it seems more difficult to mine visuals for sale or trade.

Posted by: Amy | Dec 24, 2016 7:38:51 AM

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