Kids are going to extreme lengths to reclaim the power of the internet
Have you heard of niche memes?
They are collage or clipboard images, generally on Instagram, where pre-teens and teens share personal stories and opinions through completely anonymous accounts. Unlike finstas and rinstas, no one in their “real lives” knows about these accounts, so they can be brutally honest about their issues, struggles, and feelings.
The result is what my generation had in LiveJournal: online personas that gave us power outside of our sad highschool lives.
Instead of a depressed highschooler, I was another being online. An artist-coder-rebel that shared art with over 30,000 other teens. I ranted about body image issues, my parents, boys, depression, and everything else that goes through a teen girls head. I was protected from negativity because nobody really knew who I was – and I could also be honest unlike my real life where I had to fall in line and behave. Online, you can try out all sorts of identities, which was crucial to me. I ended up finding my voice and gaining a huge following. I learned how to connect with large amounts of people by being transparent. Despite the fact that most of the world feels pretty fake, I learned that people can spot honesty, and they respond very well to it. This was the basis for what ended up being the way I communicated with my customers a few years later, when I started my first online company. It was easy for us to connect online, but it’s hard for teens now.
Instagram tracks your device, so even if you try to make a new account, it will recommend your account to your real-life connections to follow. You can delete every app on your phone, reinstall everything, disallow access to your contacts, and it still knows who you are connected to. This makes it very hard to make a niche account. If real life people start seeing the super honest stuff you say online – you’re screwed. So, teens go to extreme lengths to protect their identities and have the simple ability to privately share through a made-up online persona.
Accounts disappear often because of issues with location tracking and being identified.
I feel bad for these kids for how many hoops they have to jump through to get a little privacy and experience connecting and relating to perfect strangers online. It was so much easier, and strangely, safer, during my teens.
As a product person, it’s obvious to me that this is what users want, and none of the social media platforms, with their insatiable hunger for our data and serving the needs of their advertisers, will give it to them. I wonder if Facebook even considers end-users their primary users, or if everything is now geared to advertisers from the very top. It feels like it.
A new social media revolution is coming, and it will be driven by 13-year-olds, who are sick and tired of being tracked.