Year 8 students offer interesting perspectives on the world. The plain speaking ways of childhood have not yet been absorbed by a teenage diffidence, yet there is sometimes an awareness and a maturity in their insights that would have been unrecognisable to their Year 6 selves. Social media are pervasive in the lives of many, or perhaps most, of them, but which social media?
“What do you mostly use?” I asked a young lady.
“Instagram, mostly. You can make videos and send them.”
“What about WhatsApp?”
“Yeah, but not so much.”
“What about Facebook?”
“Facebook is for . . . well, you know what I mean, Facebook is for older people.”
“No, no-one uses Twitter.”
There were probably platforms I had left out, new and emerging media designed for teenagers and beyond the knowledge or aptitude of someone two generations older. What was interesting was the continuing applicability of the old maxim that nothing dates as fast as the contemporary. Facebook is now perceived as a platform for those of mature years; Twitter is not perceived as relevant to someone in Year 8. Perhaps their preferences will change, perhaps in a decade’s time they will be constantly posting on their Facebook page and tweeting on Twitter, but it seems unlikely. The planned integration of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram seems not so much an expansionary measure as a defensive step to try to hold their position in the market.
Unless they are able to adjust themselves to the constant changes expected by the Year 8 students and their contemporaries, the tech giants that have risen on the crest of the wave of the technological revolution seem just as vulnerable to sinking into the trough. Companies that have risen through the power of innovation face the threat of falling rapidly if they allow themselves the slightest stagnation.
One of the changes that has come with the new technology is the disappearance of the urban/rural divide and the disappearance of geographical boundaries: everything is now instantly available everywhere. My eleven year old nephews sit at their desktop computers and play Fortnite, and other games, with friends near and far. The silliest phenomenon of all was that they sat in the same room last night talking to each other – via the Internet platform with which they were both engaged.
There is an expectation of constant change and constant innovation, perhaps there will come a backlash in which we all disengage, but there is no sign of it. The only assumption that can be made is that nothing can be assumed.