Had a chat with some middle school students last week and a tech savvy teacher who talks to her students about the latest and greatest technologies that the students are using. Word on the street is myspace and xanga are no longer cool.
A 7th grade student told me: “It just got old!” Blogging at xanga.com was all the rave in the middle school earlier this year. With one parent telling me that her 7th grader blogged nightly, that he HAD to visit his friends’ blogs and leave a comment. Her son spent hours a night writing on his own blog and then visiting friends’ sites to leave comments. I asked a student why xanga (which the students here in China prefer) is now boring.
“It became something you HAD to do, people were going crazy, and you had to write something or people would say ‘Yeah, you haven’t written anything all week.’ it just got to be a hassle.”
From the conversations, I get the feeling the students ran into blogger burnout. They got to a point were they were forced to write do to peer pressure rather then having something to say. The blog postings become so diluted that they were boring to read. Having to write something just for the sake of writing something so you are cool, is not cool. “I just use MSN messenger now, I mean I always did, but that’s easier and you don’t have to wait for a reply.” an 8th grader told me.
The problem was the students tried to move their IMing sessions into blogs and it didn’t work. They are two different tools used in completely different ways.
“My mom asked me about xanga.com one night.” a 6th grader told me. I take partial credit for that after having two 2 hour parent meeting where we discussed Internet safety and cyber bullying were myspace and xanga came up. Students told me that the fact that their parents knew, and that some parents had even gone to the site made them quit.
So xanga became a place were students couldn’t hide. Once they knew that parents were hip to the site it wasn’t cool anymore. I just wonder where they will go next.
All this leaves me quit fascinated. In order for blogging to work you have to have a purpose to blog. Without a purpose, without having something meaningful to say and add to the conversation blogs become pointless rants, and why waste your time ranting to millions when you can do it through MSN messenger to all your friends. The couple blogs that are being used in the classrooms at my school are receiving great feedback from the students, yet there is a purpose to the blogs, a reason to write and respond, a reason to be apart of the conversation. It’s not blogging that is uncool, it’s the content.
It also shows the power of knowledge, as soon as the parents were hip to the sites students left finding another spot for their conversation. Is this any different then what we did in school? Once the cops where hip to make out spots, word spread and you found another. If the Internet is the new social gathering place for kids, the age old game of hide and seek still applies. A middle school teacher told me she has heard much less chatter in the last month about xanga. “It use to be all the time, xanga this, xanga that, but now I don’t hear it as often.” The students have moved on. At the moment it seems their gathering place is in private chat rooms, but I’ll keep my ears open to see where the next social gathering takes place.