BY TIM BARKER
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH – 02/28/2010
There was a time when Sarah Truckey had a close relationship with her blog. The St. Louis-based freelance writer visited it every couple of days, sharing stories and thoughts with anyone willing to read them.
But today, the intervals between visits are growing longer as Truckey, 25, increasingly turns to social networking site Twitter to talk to the world. She likes the way Twitter limits entries to 140 characters, forcing her to keep those missives short.
“The blog posts wouldn’t necessarily get me in trouble. But I would end up revealing more than I should,” Truckey said.
While not ready to abandon the blog altogether, Truckey does represent a growing trend in the world of blogging. Young people just aren’t as interested in them as they once were. And it’s yet another example of the way rapid changes in technology — and the way we use it — can transform you from trendy to dinosaur seemingly overnight.
MySpace? Out. Facebook? In. Using a cell phone for phone calls? Out. Using it to send a text message? In. E-mail? Outside of scammers and spammers, does anyone use it?
OK, there’s a bit of hyperbole there. But it’s clear we live in a world where our ways of communicating are changing so fast that it’s virtually impossible, particularly for older adults, to stay current.
And certainly there are times when keeping up can be critical. As the parent of virtually every cell phone-toting teenager or young adult knows, you learn to text if you want to keep in touch.
Still, there’s no reason to obsess over every new communication development, said Dean Terry, director of emerging media at the University of Texas at Dallas. Some basic familiarity with social networking and texting may be all you need to get by. It’s not as if the old ways will just die out.
“Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep up with everything,” Terry said. “We still have radio. We still have plays. And we still have novels.”
In so many ways, it is the nation’s army of teenagers and young adults that’s deciding for the rest of us what’s cool and what’s not. Those decisions can, and often do, change quite quickly.
“Adults are always playing catch-up. And unfortunately, when we get there, (teens) may have already moved on,” said Gary Rudman, a California-based market researcher who specializes in teens.
Just look at what’s happened to blogging, an area that’s still growing in popularity with older Americans, just as it’s losing steam with the younger set.
The percentage of older adults — those over the age of 29 — who say they maintain a blog has increased from 7 percent to 11 percent since December 2007, according to a recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Meanwhile the ranks of bloggers in the 18-29 age group fell from 24 percent to 15 percent during the same time frame.
The drop has been even greater among teen bloggers. In 2006, 28 percent of online teens said they blogged. Only 14 percent say the same thing today, according to Pew.
Social networking experts cite some pretty simple reasons for the decline of young bloggers.
Some suggest that it’s tied, at least partly, to the decline in popularity of My- Space, the one-time king of social networking. In recent years, social networkers have made a decided shift to Facebook, which puts more emphasis on short status updates and less emphasis on blogging.
“Because of what each site offers, that really changes what people do,” said Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist with Pew.
Others say blogging simply doesn’t match well with the preferred communication style of young people, who like quick exchanges via text message and Facebook status updates. Some even suggest that young people might have skipped blogs altogether if they had arrived at the same time texting was taking off. Many young people just don’t have time in their lives for blogs.
“We used to think of blogs as short little blips of commentary. But now they seem very long,” said Terry, from the University of Texas. “If you are updating your Facebook or Twitter all day, then in some ways you’ve gotten it all out. You’ve said everything you wanted to say.”
Some attribute the decline of blogging and MySpace — and anything else being abandoned by young people — to the desire of teens and young adults trying to carve out their own space.
Rarely are they happy to see that space infiltrated by parents and grandparents.
“As soon as it becomes too popular, they want to move on to something else,” said Kathryn Montgomery, a professor of communication at American University in Washington.
Not everyone buys that.
“That’s been the routine theory about why MySpace lost ground to Facebook,” said Steve Jones, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “But I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. A lot of adults are using Facebook now. And I don’t see younger people leaving in droves.”
And really, it’s not necessarily the end of the world even if the youngsters do run off to greener pastures.
Rebecca Hanes, 36, of St. Louis, has been blogging for five years. She actually has a pair of blogs, including one she describes as “a big ol’ bowl of soup” in terms of content.
Hanes shrugged off the news that young bloggers have been dropping left and right. She says she has no plans to abandon her own little slice of cyberspace: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s probably something I’ll always have.”