REVEALED! My foolproof source for digital intelligence.

Owls in trees

There is, indeed, a tree of knowledge when it comes to digital. But who’s in it may surprise you.

Information is both the blessing and curse of our times.

As a writer and perpetually curious guy, I never lose appreciation for having so many resources, facts and inspiration at my Googling fingertips. It’s instant info gratification and I’m proudly hooked.

But, time is a limited luxury and brains only have so much storage. One of the biggest complaints I hear from my marketing colleagues is the struggle to keep up with trends in our industry. It’s like clutching a rickety little raft on top of an eternal tidal wave—one that never hits the shore.

Just keeping informed on platforms—Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the like—is a full-time gig. How do you know where these things are heading? Hell, how do you know what’s happening with them right now?

I have a shortcut, I think—and so far, it’s proving to be pretty foolproof. Allow me to demonstrate…

I just read through a thorough and well-thought-out study by the Pew Research Center on teenagers, social media and privacy. (You can read it or download the pdf here.) It was really good stuff… and I’m proud to say, I knew a fair amount of it already. How?

I watch and listen to my 15-year-old son* and his friends.

I’ll give you an example.

One of the big social media news items this past year was that teens are abandoning Facebook in droves. Everyone seemed surprised, if not shocked. I wasn’t.

More than a year ago, my son and several of his noteworthy friends abruptly dropped Facebook. When I asked him why, his teenish, moody answer was something like, “Because you guys are on it.” He was referring, of course, to me, his mom, grandparents and other nosey relatives.

I wondered, at the time, if that was significant, or if it was just a rogue group of kids just being kids.

It took a few more sessions to squeeze additional adolescent intelligence from him, but it came down to his and other teens’ mortifying experience of elder relatives liking too much, posting embarrassing photos, and jumping in on conversations.

To my son and his friends, the appeal of the entire platform died a tortured death, just like video killed the radio star when I was about his age.

Then, a year later, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself told us that teens weren’t hanging out there anymore. “Old news, pops,” I thought.

Another tiny example, and I’ll let you go…

My son and his friends got into Snapchat—a photo messaging platform where friends send each other pictures and videos (known as “snaps”) to people or groups they specifically select. You set the time your viewers can see your snap (I believe it’s up to 10 seconds), before it vanishes into cyber oblivion—like a virtual Jimmy Hoffa.

In other words, it’s a platform that’s the perfect remedy to overly inquisitive, snooping and awkward relatives on Facebook. You can still share stuff, which is what social is all about, but you do it on your terms. Brilliant.

The moral of this true story: If you want to keep on top of the digital revolution, find yourself a kid informant.

As for me, in addition to playing, watching and reading every day, I’ll beg for the occasional social media crumbs from the cool kids. It’s just one other way to stay afloat on the tidal wave.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

*In case you’re wondering, I ran this by my son before publishing it, and he was cool with my posting it. I may be a creative director and marketer, but I’m a dad first.

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