WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram – if you want to find out more about young people, you need to know how they communicate. However, there are some surprising differences between the countries covered by the survey. Snapchat is the hot new arrival this year.
If you want to learn about young people, you have to look at how they communicate. Not surprisingly, only one-quarter of young people in Switzerland and nearly one-fifth in the US, Brazil and Singapore consider it fashionable to be offline and actually "log off" for a while.
One reason may be that young people have traditionally always been afraid of missing out on something interesting, now referred to colloquially as FOMO (fear of missing out) by young people.
For young people the real world and the digital world are one.
A deeper reason might be that the young people surveyed don't even distinguish between online and offline. The generation born after 1990 doesn't know a world without the internet. As a result, for them the real world and the digital world are one. An example is the mobile app game Pokémon Go. Capturing virtual characters in the real world seems strange only to parents.
Across the board, the Youth Barometer shows that there are huge differences between the countries surveyed, although the digital world knows no borders and the term is often used interchangeably with "global". This is especially clear with respect to communication. While text messaging (SMS) continues to gain popularity in the US and Singapore, only a minority of people text in Brazil and Switzerland. That is due in part to the fact that WhatsApp (interestingly, an American app), never really took off in the US because texting has almost always been free. WhatsApp is the go-to app in Switzerland and Brazil, on the other hand.
Facebook plays a growing number of roles in young people's lives. Facebook Messenger is among the top communication platforms in all of the countries surveyed. The social network is also used for news and has been considered "in" for years. WhatsApp is also part of the Facebook group, which reports the following user numbers: Facebook: 1.6 billion active members per month, WhatsApp: 900 million, Messenger: 800 million.
But when it comes to digital technology, young people do not have much brand loyalty. According to their statements, Facebook and WhatsApp could soon come under pressure from the new favorite among young people: Los Angeles-based Snapchat, which was launched in 2011. Snapchat focuses more on photos and videos than WhatsApp and offers more privacy (messages are deleted after a certain amount of time, and users are informed whenever a recipient archives something). In Switzerland, 52 percent of survey participants use Snapchat, with more and more young people using Snapchat in all four survey countries. According to Bloomberg, Snapchat is already worth 18 billion US dollars. The total number of Snapchat users has not been released.
In closing, some less pleasant news: Many young people have had negative experiences while communicating online. A troubling number of respondents in the US (40 percent), Brazil (25 percent), Singapore (33 percent) and Switzerland (39 percent) indicated that they had been harassed or outright bullied on Facebook. The number has increased dramatically in Switzerland, up from only 11 percent reporting such experiences in 2010. This could be one reason why other social media networks (WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger) have gained popularity in recent years, as users have more control over who can read what and reply compared to Facebook's timeline.