10 things I learned at Media Now STL

Since Sunday, I’ve been teaching social media classes at Media Now STL, a high school journalism camp in St. Louis. Here’s what I learned from my students:

Yes, teenage girls still really like One Direction. They’re not so keen on Taylor Swift. And no one (including me) understands The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” lyrics. What does that mean?

Mobile is everything. Everyone had a smartphone, and a good number of them had their own tablets, too.

They don’t use Facebook. It’s more than that though — they don’t use it and don’t understand why you do. Except parents. When the students were asked to write Facebook posts, they made them, in their words, “as mom as possible.”

They tweet … and delete.

They don’t use hashtags on Twitter. They will use them on Instagram, but want a limit: No more than two.

They don’t click on hashtags to find new or related content. They don’t search social media for related content. They follow their friends and aren’t that interested in what strangers are saying or sharing.

Snapchat is king. But Snapchat isn’t just a quick funny face sent to a friend. They’re planning out and informally storyboarding their chats — content that only will be seen once by their friends.

They’re looking for opportunities to have serious conversations. Throughout camp, we heard from several journalists who covered Ferguson and what that was like. On Tuesday night, though, my class attended (and live-tweeted) a storytelling event at St. Louis Fringe Fest. We didn’t know what to expect, and we only had an hour. We walked into a serious conversation about Ferguson and the students were invited to participate. They appreciated that. Adults listened to them; they listened to adults and each other.

They’re comfortable in front of the camera. They randomly shoot selfies. Yes, they love selfie sticks. They also think you should stop taking selfies. OK, they said “adults” shouldn’t do it. When I asked who was an adult, I got several answers (anyone older than 18, for example), but my favorite answer: “People who use five hashtags.” What they really mean: parents shouldn’t take selfies.

They’re quick. They can plan and execute a good snap (or other project) in a few minutes. (Trust me, it’d take you at least 30 minutes — maybe longer.) They’re not afraid to stop and reshoot to get what they want — they already have the concept mapped out in their heads.

For example: My class put together a “what adults should know about social media” video. Two students came up with the idea on Monday. I brought it up again on Wednesday. They talked about it, planned it and filmed it in less than 30 minutes. Getting the video from four videographers to one spot took the longest. They edited it and put it together Thursday morning, decided it needed a better intro and outro, filmed those pieces and wrapped it up in about 30 minutes. We didn’t talk as a class about video concepts or audience — everything in the video is in their own words. Is it going to win awards? No. Is it fun? Yes. Are they already talking about how they would’ve done it better? Yes.