Archive for June, 2009

Explosion of networking sites can result in ‘sociability fatigue’

Explosion of networking sites can result in ‘sociability fatigue’

By Jessica Schreindl

Vanessa Wilcox spent her Sunday online.

The 20-year-old mass-communications major at Missouri Southern State University logged on to the Internet at 9 a.m. and didn’t log off until 8 p.m.

“I got up to go to the bathroom and eat and then I would come back,” she said. “I was trying to write a paper and then I started Googling and checking Facebook and then I started watching videos on YouTube. So I got nothing done.”

Wilcox’s behavior is common among people her age. Gary Rudman, president and founder of the Sausalito, Calif.-based GTR Consulting, researches the consumption habits of children and young adults. He describes Wilcox’s experience as “sociability fatigue.”

Sociability fatigue is a result of spending too much time on social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.

“It’s a lot of pressure keeping everything updated, between Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,” he said. “Kids don’t want to feel like they’re not part of what’s happening, they fear becoming irrelevant. Now it’s like if you’re not on Twitter, you’re irrelevant.”

‘Brain blur’

Twitter is a social-networking site, and its popularity has recently exploded among youths. It’s like Facebook, except people constantly update their “status” to let friends know what they’re doing.

“It’s like you have to know if Sarah is having that cup of coffee at Starbucks,” Rudman said. “For some reason, that’s important.”

Wilcox has had her Twitter page for four months. When she joined, most people had never heard about Twitter. She’s also on Facebook and MySpace, and has three YouTube channels. YouTube is her favorite and the one she spends most of her time on, recording and uploading videos.

“I just love the whole YouTube community,” she said. “You tag somebody and then that person tags somebody and it just goes on from there. Pretty soon you have this group of people connected.”

It’s not uncommon for students like Wilcox to get online to do homework and get distracted with “socializing.” Rudman says it’s harder for today’s youths to focus on one message while they are being bombarded with so many others. He describes it as “brain blur.”

“They have so many things coming at them from different directions,” he said. “Their brain is trying to figure out how to filter all this stuff.”

Rudman says while previous generations had years to learn new technology, today’s youths are expected to “adopt and adapt” overnight.

“It took the radio 58 years to reach a population of 50 million,” he said. “It took Facebook two years.”


While Rudman worries many people are joining social-networking sites for fear of being “out of the loop,” Wilcox says that isn’t the case with her. She says she joined social-networking sites to keep in touch with friends and family.

“I joined YouTube because my sister was on there,” she said. “Facebook is for my Joplin friends and MySpace is for my friends back home. Everybody was on something different. It’s crazy to keep up with everything.”

Bailey Tinsley describes herself as “not tech savvy” and says she finds social networking “annoying.” Although she has a Facebook account, she’d rather talk to her friends in person.

“I think it’s making us socially inept,” the Missouri Southern student said. “Our grandparents didn’t do all these things and they had much closer relationships.”

Rudman agrees. He says many people are opening up online because they don’t have to deal with the “emotional content.”

GTR is releasing its G-Trend Report in May, looking at the “uneven relationship between teens, technology and society.” The report includes a portion devoted to what Rudman calls “textual feeling.”

“One girl in our study told us guys are breaking up with girls by text messaging,” Rudman said. “She said it’s because guys don’t want to see them cry.”

Rudman thinks social networking sites will eventually decrease as people become more and more overwhelmed with information.

“I think everybody will eventually sit back and say ‘Wow, this is just too much information,'” he said. “We’ll realize it’s just not possible to do all this stuff.”

Lessons in youth marketing during a recession

by Inyoung Hwang
May 05, 2009

WASHINGTON – Companies have felt the need in this recession to ramp up innovative advertising tactics when targeting young adults, a demographic that has been elusive to marketers in recent years.

The weakened consumer confidence and spending in the U.S. have affected an age-group previously thought to be more recession-resilient.

A survey by the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Company found 77 percent of young adults, people 18-29, feel nervous and anxious about the impact of the recession. Teen spending on fashion also declined 14 percent over the last year, according to a report by the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The challenge becomes twofold for companies as they combat an economic downturn, while trying to capture a new kind of savvy customers made up of teenagers and twenty-somethings living in the internet age.

“They’re not passive consumers of anything,” said Carol Phillips, a marketing professor at University of Notre Dame. “You have to kind of market with them rather than to them.”

Phillips described how, as a consumer group, young adults can be a “moving target” because of  the rapid changes in technology. An evolving relationship with technology leads to an entirely different relationship with marketing, she explained.

For marketers, young adults tend to be a more skeptical, team-oriented bunch, who are equipped with a sense of confidence that comes with the ease of finding information online. Even if an advertisement is backed by research or substantiated claims, young adults still assume it needs to be verified.

“They take everything with a definite grain of salt,” Phillips said. “They’re much more likely to rely on what their friends say or what they read in a third-party blog.”

Morris Levy, senior at the University of New Hampshire, said even if a new product like a video game sparked his interest, he would hold off on purchasing it until he understood it better.

“I’d look into it more – look at reviews online, ratings from different companies and news sources,” he said.

Gary Rudman, the president of GTR Consulting, a market research firm, said video game companies will sometimes provide free clips of games to websites like IGN Entertainment. It’s a simple but successful word-of-mouth strategy that allows young people to feel like they’re finding things on their own and then talk to friends about it.

“It doesn’t feel like a marketer is forcing something down  your throat,” he said. “You’ve gone to a place to find it, you’ve discovered it, and you share it with the world.”

The challenge in advertising to teenagers and young adults can be reaching them at their multiple methods of communication, especially since online advertising is still a tricky obstacle for marketers. Very successful brands understand there’s nothing better than having something “bubble up from the bottom,” according to Rudman.

“It’s very important to allow them to market to each other,” Phillips said. “Information is currency. Give them things that they value so they will share it with their friends.”

With the ongoing recession, however, the experiences of friends may have other ripple effects as well. Levy said seeing his friends have trouble landing part-time jobs has caused him to be more conscious of saving money.

“Small cuts whenever possible now,” Levy said.

The media coverage of the financial crisis has also changed spending .

“You stop buying random trendy items,” said Elizabeth Eun, a junior at Boston University. “You stick to buying things that are going to last longer and save you money in the long run.”

She mentioned Apple and American Apparel as noteworthy brands that have relied on pairing brightly-colored advertisements with sleek designs to project images of ‘unique’ and ‘hip’.

Apple recently launched a series of “There’s an app for that” TV commercials, one of which appeals to how the device can make life easier for students.

But in the case of American Apparel, the strategy can backfire as popularity causes the brand to lose its sense of uniqueness and consumers become less willing to spend dollars on the cotton clothing basics the company sells.

“People used to be willing to pay $40 to $50 for a hoodie, but not so much anymore,” she said.

Consumers are known to gravitate back to names they know and trust in a recession, but with young adults this trend doesn’t hold as true. Brands don’t have as long a shelf-life with young consumers, unless they continue to transform with the times, according to Rudman.

For companies able to alter their image and adapt, there may be opportunity in the economic downturn through deep discounting and heavy promotions.

“Brands need to offer more for less by offering price-conscious teens products and services where they feel they are getting a bigger bang for their buck,” said Anastasia Goodstein, founder of, a youth media and marketing website.

Goodstein said higher-end brands might consider launching lower cost product lines and offering incentives like “buy three,get one free” or promoting layaway plans in order to keep old customers and lure new ones.

“They’re relatively young consumers so their allegiances aren’t completely set yet,” Phillips said. “They’re pretty open to trying new things.”

Youth Vs. Adults in Gadget Wars

By MARTHA IRVINE, AP National Writer

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Scott Seigal was awakened one recent early morning by a cell phone text message. It was from his girlfriend’s mother.

His friends’ parents have posted greetings on his MySpace page for all the world to see. And his 72-year-old grandmother sends him online instant messages every day so they can better stay in touch while he’s at college.

“It’s nice that adults know SOME things,” says Seigal, an 18-year-old freshman at Binghamton University in New York. He especially likes IMing with his grandma because he’s “not a huge talker on the phone.”

Increasingly, however, he and other young people are feeling uncomfortable about their elders encroaching on what many young adults and teens consider their technological turf.

Long gone are the days when the average, middle-aged adult did well to simply work a computer. Now those same adults have Gmail, upload videos on YouTube, and sport the latest high-tech gadgets.

Young people have responded, as they always have, by searching out the latest way to stay ahead in the race for technological know-how and cool. They use Twitter, which allows blogging from one’s mobile phone or BlackBerry, or, a site where they can download videos and TV programs.

They customize their cell phones with various faceplates and ringtones. And, sometimes, they find ways to exclude adults — using high-frequency ringtones that teens can hear but most adults can’t, for instance.

Nowhere are the technological turf wars more apparent than on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, which went from being student-oriented to allowing adults outside the college ranks to join.

Gary Rudman, a California-based youth market researcher, has heard the complaints. He regularly interviews young people who think it’s “creepy” when an older person — we’re talking someone they know — asks to join their social network as a “friend.” It means, among other things, that they can view each others’ profiles and what they and their friends post.

“It would be like a 40-year-old attending the prom or a frat party,” Rudman says. “It just doesn’t work.”

It’s a particular quandary for image-conscious teens, says Eric Kuhn, a junior at Hamilton College in upstate New York, who’s blogged about the etiquette of social networking.

He accepted his mom’s invitation to be Facebook friends and has, in turn, become online friends with other adults she knows. But so far, he says, his 16-year-old sister has declined to add their mom “because she thinks it is not cool.”

Lakeshia Poole, a 24-year-old from Atlanta, says “my Facebook self has become a watered down version of me.” Worried about older adults snooping around, she’s now more careful about what she posts and has also made her profile private, so only her online friends can see it.

“It’s somewhat a Catch-22, because now I’m hidden from the people I would really like to connect with,” she says.

Lauren Auster-Gussman, a freshman at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, says it’s particularly awkward when one of her parents’ friends asks to join her social network. She thinks Facebook should only be used by people younger than, say, 40.

“I mean, I’m in college,” she says. “There are bound to be at least a few drunken pictures of me on Facebook, and I don’t need my parents’ friends seeing them.”

There are ways around the problem.

It’s possible on some sites, for instance, to limit what someone can see on your profile, though some users think it’s a pain to have to deal with that.

“That is the beauty of Facebook and other online social networks. If you want to only interact with your peers, then you can adjust the settings to only allow that,” says Katie Jones, a senior at Ohio Wesleyan University, who’s studied ways prospective students use Facebook to contact students at colleges and universities they’re interested in attending.

It’s also possible to simply decline or ignore an adult’s request to be an online friend. Or adults could back off and only use social networking to contact their own peers.

But it’s not always so easy to relinquish that control, especially for parents of teens, says Kathryn Montgomery, the author of “Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce and Childhood in the Age of the Internet” and mother of a 14-year-old.

“As parents, we have to figure out where to draw the line between encouraging and allowing our teens to have autonomy, to experience their separate culture, and when we need to monitor their use of media,” says Montgomery, a professor of communication at American University.

She says it’s especially important to help young people understand that social networking is often more public than they think. Sometimes monitoring them is the best way to do that.

Sue Frownfelter, a 46-year-old mom in Flint, Mich., thinks it’s less of an issue for parents who discover technology with — or even before — their children. Among other things, she has a blog, uses Twitter and has a Chumby, a personal Internet device that displays anything from news and weather to photos and eBay auctions.

Her children, ages 9 and 11, begged her to allow them to have a MySpace page, because she does. Instead, she suggested, a social networking site for kids that allows parental monitoring.

“I can’t imagine my life without technology! It has truly become an extension of who I am and who my family will likely be,” says Frownfelter, who works at a community college.

Still, in today’s world, parents are finding that the urge to stake out technological turf is starting at a very young age.

Jennifer Abelson, a mom in New York, says her 2-year-old daughter asks every day if she can play on the “‘puter” on such kid-oriented sites as and

“She’s constantly telling us ‘I will do it!’ and ‘Go away!’ if we try to interfere with her ‘working,'” Abelson says.

“It’s pretty amazing to see technology ingrained at such a young age. But I know she’s learned so much from being able to use technology on her own.”


Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at) or via

Teens panic as they’re forced to unplug at camp

May 14, 2009 5:26 PM

Tim Chai keeps in touch with friends through Facebook, listens to music on his iPod and never goes anywhere without his BlackBerry.

So when the 17-year-old was looking for a summer camp, he ruled out a church camp with a no cell phone, no computer policy.

“I just thought it was too much for me to handle,” said Tim, of Carmel, Ind. “I love my Internet. I love my phone. I’m not ashamed to say it.”

For a generation used to texting, Facebook and YouTube, going away to sleepaway camp can be a bit unnerving. Many outdoor camps don’t allow cell phones, laptops or iPods, and there is no computer lab for them to update their pages.

Many campers are “a little panicked” to part with their cell phones, said Tony Sparber, founder of New Image Camps, with locations in Florida and Pennsylvania. Some try to smuggle them in or bring more than one phone in case one is confiscated, he said.

Even parents who are used to having constant access to their kids can experience anxiety.

Kimberley Fink, 40, of Weston, Mass., is a little nervous about her 14-year-old daughter who is going away to camp for the first time. The camp lasts for two weeks and her daughter won’t be able to call.

“It makes me slightly uneasy,” said Fink. “I will probably be one of the mothers who calls the camp office after a couple of days to check in. Sometimes you just need that reassurance.”

Dave Steinberg, owner and director of Canteen Roads Teen Travel Camp out of Huntington, N.Y., said most parents ask about the no-cell-phone policy out of concern for their children’s safety.

To reassure them, he gives them his cell phone number and campers a prepaid calling card. He also uploads photos to a password protected site that the parents can access.

Experts agree that unplugging is a great idea. But it will be a “shock to the system” for those who are digitally dependent, says Anastasia Goodstein, author of “Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online.”

Some like Chai may be reluctant to go to a camp for that reason, said Gary Rudman of GTR Consulting, author of the upcoming 2009 gTrend Report, which focuses on teens and technology.

Sean Hakim, 16, struggled to give up his gadgets for two weeks when he went to Antiochian Village Camp in Pennsylvania. The camp does not allow cells or iPods and campers have no computer access.

“At first, it was scary,” admits Sean, of River Vale, N.J. But he said, “once you get there, you realize you don’t really need it. You are always with people, doing something.”

Plugged in teens are under tremendous pressure to maintain “Brand Me” on Facebook and other social networking sites, said Rudman. Without a cell phone or online access, it’s like they are invisible.

And while teens will inevitably make friends at camp, 10 friends in your bunk is not the same as hundreds on Facebook, he said.

“The dilemma for camps is that if they do allow technology, the kids will likely plug in and tune out,” said Rudman, adding that being off the grid may be the best thing for chill-challenged teens. “That would defeat the purpose of camp.”

When camp starts, plugged-in children may feel a little disoriented, like a part of them is missing, said Dr. Michael Assel, associate professor of pediatric psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Those feelings should subside as children get involved in camp activities, he said.

Campers say that’s what usually happens. They forget about their lost social connections much like they forget about television.

“They keep you so busy, you are having so much fun, I forget about the computer. I forget about Facebook,” said Max Truen, 15, of Dix Hills, N.Y., who goes to New Image Camp’s Camp Pocono Trails each summer.

So what happens when camp is over? Do teens give up texting? Or Facebook?

Not a chance. They have more friends.

Are you a twit if you don’t want to Twitter?

May 13, 2009
By Martha Irvine, AP National Writer

CHICAGO — Eily Toyama gave in after friends pestered her to join Facebook. But she used her cat’s name instead of her own so she could avoid networking requests from people she didn’t really want to connect to. And don’t even ask her about Twitter unless you want to get an eye roll.

“I just don’t think people need to know that much about my life,” says the 32-year-old Chicagoan, who works in information technology.

Call it online sociability fatigue. And it’s not just being felt by older folks who have lived most of their lives without the Web. As social networking grows, from stream-of-consciousness Twitter to buttoned-up LinkedIn, even some of the very young people who’ve helped drive these sites’ growth could use a break.

Mike Nourie, a student at Emerson College in Boston, says he feels a little relieved to escape social networking when he works summers at an inn on Cape Cod where connection to the wired world is spotty.

“It gives me a chance to relax and focus on other things like music, work and friends,” says the guitar-playing 20-year-old.
Last month, Alex Slater took it a step farther. He dumped his Twitter account and stripped the information on his Facebook page to a minimum. Though he has more than 600 “friends” on Facebook, he checks it much less often.

“Being exposed to details, from someone’s painful breakup to what they had for breakfast — and much more sordid details than that — feels like voyeurism,” says the 31-year-old public relations executive in Washington, D.C. “I’m less concerned with protecting my privacy, and more concerned at the ethics of a ‘human zoo’ where others’ lives, and often serious problems, are treated as entertainment.”

A recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 45% of Americans in all age groups are enthusiastic about socializing via computer and mobile devices. Meanwhile, 48% are indifferent to Internet social networks, overwhelmed by gadgets or often avoiding Internet use altogether.

Perhaps most surprising was the presence of a group that fell in between — the remaining 7% of the survey. These people, who had a median age of 29, are savvy about social networks and always carry mobile devices — and yet they feel conflicted about staying in constant contact. Pew called them “ambivalent networkers.”

“They have this anxiety about shutting off,” says John Horrigan, the associate director at Pew who wrote the report. “They’re afraid they might be missing something. But we also find them yearning for a break.”

Gary Rudman, who tracks youth trends at GTR Consulting, has seen it, too.

“Bottom line: Who wouldn’t be fatigued, given all of the social and business networking obligations thrust among young adults? With Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and Twitter, young adults struggle to keep up to avoid the consequences — being left out of the loop or becoming irrelevant,” Rudman says.

Jennavieve Bryan, a 25-year-old student at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, is still holding out from online social networking for now. She admits to feeling “a little twinge of jealousy” when she sees her friends’ lives so nicely laid out on an online networking page, but she thinks it’s too much trouble for too little reward.

“When my friends find out I don’t have a MySpace or, God forbid, a Facebook page, they look at me like I should be exiled from our social circle,” she says.

It shouldn’t be surprising that quick-hit online communications, the stuff of 140-character “tweets” on Twitter and “status updates” on Facebook, leave some people cold. Craig Kinsley, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Richmond, notes that studies of human interactions reveal that our brains crave networking, online and off, but differentiate between the quality of the interactions.

“Many short contacts may leave the user wanting deeper, more meaningful exchanges. Like a meal of cotton candy, when you come right down to it, there is not much substance,” he says. “A good conversation with a good friend is much more life-affirming than a few tortuously abbreviated or emoticon-filled lines in a tweet that anyone can read. How special is that?”
Paul Herrerias thinks more people are starting to get that.

Nearly seven years ago, Herrerias, managing director of the San Francisco office for Stanton Chase, an executive search firm, started a “CEO Club,” a monthly breakfast meeting for executives looking for work after the dot-com bust.
“We could do a lot of this online. But it’s the breakfast and looking people in the eye that fires them up,” Herrerias says, noting that some people drive more than an hour to attend. “There’s an empathy that goes on between us. I care about their needs and they care about me.”

Survival tips: Coupons, clothesline, a savvy cell phone plan

Asbury Park Press – Asbury Park,NJ,USA
Shannon Mullen • STAFF WRITER • June 7, 2009
When her salary was frozen and her husband’s income was slashed 15 percent, Kathy Esposito followed their employers’ example: She cut expenses wherever she could.

She switched to a cheaper cellular phone plan, talked her satellite TV provider into lopping $20 off her monthly bill for a year to keep her as a subscriber, and started running her dishwasher and washing machine at night to take advantage of lower, off-peak electricity rates.

She also began spending more time surfing the Internet for coupons, doubled the size of her vegetable garden and set her laundry out to dry on a clothesline strung up in her backyard.

“It cuts down on my natural gas usage because I’m not running my dryer,” explained Esposito, 46, of Howell, who calculated that the clothesline alone saved her $123 last year.

Such thriftiness used to be part of the woof and weave of American culture. Now, on the heels of a heady era of conspicuous consumption, frugality is in vogue again, a byproduct of the worst recession in decades.

Coupon use has exploded, shoppers are flocking to discounters like Walmart, and more “consumers” are morphing into “savers.” In April, the savings rate surged to 5.7 percent, the highest level in 14 years. A recent survey of about 1,000 U.S. adults by SunTrust Banks found that nearly 9 out of 10 had made a change to their daily routine to save money.

Meanwhile, people are flooding the Internet looking for ways to stretch their dollars. In February, use of the search terms “get out of debt” on the Yahoo! search engine spiked 600 percent, and searches for “free printable online coupons” soared 3,600 percent, said Laura Rowley, a New Jersey-based columnist for Yahoo! Finance.

“People are sort of obsessed with being frugal at the moment,” said Rowley, of Maplewood, author of “Money and Happiness: A Guide to Living the Good Life” (Wiley, 2005) and a blog by the same name.

“Frugality is definitely “in,’ ” she said. “What I think is funny is hearing women from Short Hills say, “I’m doing my own nails now to save the 25 bucks.’ ”

Even today’s teens are adapting to an altered economic landscape. Viral advertising, meaning word-of-mouth shopping advice, is all the rage.

“It’s very, very hip to be the guy or the girl who found the thing that everybody wants at a better price,” said Gary Rudman of GTR Consulting, a San Francisco-based market research firm that tracks the habits of young consumers.

Esposito said she was thrifty before the recession hit, but not to the extent she is now.

“I can’t rely on getting (more) money from the employers anymore,” she said, speaking for many workers who have seen their earnings stall or shrink in the past year. “I’ve got to be able to cut and cut and cut, wherever I can.”

As the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, she said the challenge is finding inexpensive or free ways to have fun. Among her discoveries: Lowe’s, the home improvement chain, offers free weekend workshops for kids — her daughter Stephanie made her a planter for Mother’s Day at one — and the Chick-fil-A restaurant near her home in Howell has a free craft and storytime for children every Tuesday night.

“People are looking more and more for things to do” that don’t cost a lot of money, said Lynn Humphrey of Eatontown, who runs a Web site and publishes a free newsletter packed with listings of community events in the Monmouth County area.
“Most of these are free,” said Humphrey, 56, who is in the process of expanding her business, called BizeTurtle: Events in Monmouth. She’s found deals doing that, too, like the 250 free business cards she got from, an online printing company.

To be sure, the recession is forcing frugality on many Americans, about 5.7 million of whom have lost their jobs since the start of the downtown more than a year ago. Rowley, however, said the economic turmoil is prompting many people to reassess their priorities, and she believes at least some of the lifestyle changes they’re making will be permanent ones.

“Pricing power has shifted from retailers to consumers,” she said. “Consumers are learning they don’t have to pay full price . . . (and) now you have all these intermediaries on the Web showing you how to save money.”

That’s not to say that clotheslines are sprouting in Esposito’s neighborhood — not yet, anyway — though she said some of her friends and co-workers seem intrigued by the idea.

“One of my girlfriends has been needling her husband to put a washline,” she said in her backyard the other day, as her bath towels swayed in the breeze. “It really does pay off.”