My eldest daughter turned 10 a few weeks ago. Her birthday gift list included the usual suspects: sketch book, colored pencils, lacrosse sticks, Harry Potter DVDs.
There was one item, buried toward the bottom of her list, that I wasn’t expecting to see. No, it wasn’t a bottle of scotch or pole dancing lessons, but it was almost as dangerous: She wanted her own social media account. Hmm. Well, that’s interesting. My wife and I both work at digital media companies, so it’s definitely in our financial interests to see legions of 10-year-old kids hooked on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
As a parent, these were uncharted waters.
After some back and forth, we came up with a plan: She could open one social media account. This way, I explained, all of her relatives and friends could easily follow her and stay in touch. I skipped the part about spying on her every move. But which site would it be? I made my move and recommended Club Penguin, even offering a premium membership. She rolled her eyes, and explained that she hadn’t been on “baby sites” in five years. Realizing the inevitable, we decided to focus on five contenders.
My daughter really likes to make videos with Dad’s old iPhone. Some we edit together, but most of the time they’re just raw files. YouTube also has brand appeal; kids are fascinated by the notion of having their own “channel.” But YouTube lost out for two reasons. First, the platform is kind of boring; YouTube lacks the social aspects of its competitors. Second, the mobile version is clumsy—there’s no easy way to upload and share a video. At least not in my daughter’s view.
We gave this one a lot of consideration. Twitter definitely has buzz—a cool name and upcoming IPO will do that for you. And my daughter likes the Vine video sharing feature. But she couldn’t get her head around the concept of “followers.” Her words: “It’s really hard to tell who anyone is with all the names and symbols and abbreviations.” Interesting observation. Maybe less isn’t more.
Another strong contender. My girl loves the ability to see what her friends are up to—and vice versa. She also digs the “what are you doing now?” box at the top of the page. But she keenly observed Facebook’s one fatal flaw: Where’s the video? It’s true. YouTube has a great video platform with lame social, while Facebook has great social hooks but rather, um, limited video capabilities. Next.
The up-and-comer! Admittedly we have personal bias here. My wife works at Yahoo and did everything short of issuing stock warrants to convince our daughter to start tumbling. Tumblr’s mobile platform checked a lot of boxes: great phone version, really simple to use, easy photo-and-video sharing, to name a few. After thinking about it, she decided to hold off for now—because the only thing she really wants to do is share photos. And that leaves us with only one survivor…
The winner, in a stunning upset! On September 17, Instagram got its 12 billionth user, my daughter. I have to say, she’s active. She posts photos all the time, diligently logs and writes captions, and communicates with friends from the city and camp and all over. Best of all, I’ve only had to block four strangers so far. Maybe there’s so many users that the creepy dudes can’t find my daughter. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
As I thought about our bake-off, I realized something. We live in a video-driven world, but the staying power of the photo is truly amazing. My daughter watches video everywhere. She’s awash in a sea of moving images, yet when given the choice, the still image is what prevailed. A picture truly is worth a thousand words—or billions of dollars if you’re lucky enough to own Instagram. Maybe Facebook really is the winner.
What was your child’s first social media account?