Following Digital Natives
By | January 7th, 2013

By now, most of us mature types have long admitted how “native” users of technology discover technology long before it shows up on our radar screens.

Aside from the obvious benefits, one of the greatest things about having had children back in the ‘90s and early ‘00s was watching them adopt and master new gadgets and platforms.

If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  As tuned in as we think we are (and we’re not), everyone can learn a great deal from those who aren’t old enough to have a driver’s license.

True story: I pick up my 14 year-old son and a friend at a school dance.  They both hop in the backseat and after about 10 minutes of silence, the following dialogue takes place:

Lame dad:  “Hey, why haven’t you guys said a word to each other since you got in the car?”

Native son: “We are talking to each other.”

Lame dad: “No, you’re not – I haven’t heard a thing from either one of you since we left school.”

Native son: “We’re texting with each other.”

Lame dad: “Why would you do that?  You’re sitting right next to each other!”

Native son: “Because we don’t want you to hear what we’re talking about.”

And thus, another lesson about text messaging, privacy, parents, and generational differences over tech usage.

The lessons continued.  I watched my kids carry on a half dozen IM “conversations” at the same time.

I watched my son use YouTube as a music discovery vehicle.

I watched both kids move to Facebook, and eventually find it annoying.

And on and on.

I’m sure many of you have witnessed similar but different experiences that provided important lessons in how tech and gadgets have changed the way people communicate and interact with one another.

But if you’re thinking that because you now own an iPad, have a few hundred friends on Facebook, carry a smartphone, and are dabbling on Twitter that you’ve got it all figured out, then you’re not watching young people.

Because while many of them are seriously tiring of Facebook (or ignoring it all together), they are moving on to other platforms.  I hear many people ask whether there will ever be anything as big as Facebook.  And that question misses the point.

Nothing new may come along that has the critical mass to connect a billion people, but other platforms, sites, tools and gadgets will play important roles in how consumers interact.

A case in point is Snapchat.

Never heard of it?

Well, you’re not alone.  Lori Lewis mentioned it to me a few months back.  Her 12-year old daughter and her friends are addicted to it.  And Larry Rosin mentioned it the other day.

It’s an ingenious little mobile app that allows you to take a picture on your phone and share it with friends.

So what’s the big deal, you say?

With Snapchat, the picture disintegrates after it’s viewed.  You set the timer for up to 10 seconds.  And once it’s gone, it’s GONE.

Pretty clever.  So start thinking about how it might be used, especially by pre-teens.  And then start thinking about how even business types might use Snapchat and benefit from it.

Had Snapchat been around a couple years ago, Anthony Weiner and Christopher Lee would still be in Congress.  Kwame Kilpatrick might still be running Detroit.  And thousands of divorces would never have occurred.

But if you’re not in contact with “digital natives,” you’d never know about Snapchat.  Or Pheed.  Or some of the other innovative platforms that will start young and eventually work their way into companies and boardrooms.

We’re including Snapchat in Techsurvey9 which launches later this month.

And we’d like to include your station in it, too.

There are no courses you can take to learn about what’s happening right now.

This is how we learn in the 21st century.

Join us.


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