Snapchat is dead. Pinterest has lots of love. TikTok is confusing. These are some of the takeaways from one of my favorite discussions of the semester: my focus group. Here's what a room full of 20ish-year-old college students in New York City have to say about the state of our digital life.
I’ve been finding myself making the same hand gesture on a lot of Zoom calls recently. I flick my finger up, wiggle it up and down, and trail off to the right in a straight line.I draw this oscillating line when I talk about AI. Or crypto. Or the “metaverse.” Or even Taylor Swift tickets. It’s the hype cycle.
In physics, our understanding of the universe “breaks down” at extreme scales. The equations and models we learn in high school don’t hold up when we look at massive black holes and at the infinitely small quantum scale – the math has a pesky habit of going haywire. The same phenomenon happens when we look at how some people and organizations communicate.
Milestones make us reflective. The “homo economicus,” a figurative human that is only interested in purely rational action would say that January 1 and December 31 are no more different from each other than May 12 and May 13. The digit at the end of the year shouldn’t make a difference – but it does. Thankfully, we’re irrational creatures by nature.
Last night, I ran one of my favorite classes of the semester – the focus group. After a couple months of me doing most of the talking, in this lesson we turn things around and I spend an hour and change asking the students questions about how they use social media, their phones, and everything else we talk about in our course. Increasingly, the results have been putting me in my place.