What does social media mean for young people?


The online world offers an environment for young people to test and express their own identities. Online, young people can also communicate with their friends and belong to communities.

These are the main themes that rose from the mapping of recent Finnish research on young people’s online experiences. Verke – National Developement Centre for Online Youth Work – conducted the mapping in autumn 2014. Altogether 205 individual researches regarding 10-29-year-old’s online cultures were analyzed.

Picture: Demonea, user of goSupermodel

Picture: Demonea, user of goSupermodel

Who am I and what others think of me?

Young people experience their online identities to be flexible, formable and constantly updatable. They form their identities for example by blogging and vlogging. On blogs people can choose which sides of themselves to present to the online audience. They also get feedback from readers and viewers.

Young people see it important to have impact on how others see them in social media.  They use online environments to test how other people react to different kinds of opinions. Anonymous discussion forums are good arenas for identity testing, as you can behave somewhat differently as you would in front of your friends.

Most of the youth think very carefully what they share online. However, when comparing social media use between different age groups, young people seem to be most eager to share content and to participate in discussions.

It is true that using social media is a social necessity for those who want to belong to a group of friends. Social media is a natural form of communication to young people. They switch fluently between different social media and other forms of communication.

The communication online mostly happens between school mates, but also new friends are found via social media. Like-minded people can be found for example in discussion forums and online games, and they can become friends in offline world as well.

Social media is not just a media

Understand the significant role of social media.

Social media means for young people most of all hanging out with friends. They can do various things online: play games, blog, make new friends, exchange opinions and watch YouTube videos. But whatever they do, a social aspect is strongly present.

Social media is an important growing environment for young people. This means that social media should be understood as an environment, not merely as a tool or a media. When social media is seen as an environment, its cultural role is better understood.

Although most young people use social media actively, there is much variation in using habits. They also change constantly: A game that is popular this week is old news the week after.

It is hard work for a parent to keep up with current trends and apps. As a parent, you don’t have to know everything about the services your kids use. The most important thing is to understand how significant role social media has in young people’s everyday lives.

suvi tuominen
About the author:

Suvi Tuominen, Verke

Suvi Tuominen works as Project Manager at the Finnish organisation Verke – National Development Centre for Online Youth Work.