Lost MySpace Passwords Not a Concern For Some Teens
Posted on January 11, 2007Danah Boyd has an interesting post about how teenagers treat their social networking profiles and passwords. Many are not nearly as concerned as adults might be about losing passwords and having to start over creating a new profile. Some are even happy to start over because it gives them a chance to dump some of their old "friends." For some teens a lost password is simply an opportunity to start over with a new profile.
It makes you wonder how many of the 147,364,401 profiles currently on MySpace are the old profiles of teens who have lost their password and started a new one. It is also promising news for MySpace competitors as it sounds like there are plenty of teens that like trying out new social networks and building new profiles.Teens are not dreaming of portability (like so many adults i meet). They are happy to make new accounts on new sites; they enjoy building out profiles. (Part of this could be that they have a lot more time on their hands.) The idea of taking MySpace material to Facebook when they transition is completely foreign. They're going to a new site, they want to start over.
While this feeling of ephemerality is not universal amongst teens, it's far more prevalent than you'd ever see in adult culture and it has some significant implications for design:
Focusing on "lock-in" will fail with these teens - they don't care if they lose track of something they put hours into building. Teens are not looking for universal anything; that's far too much of a burden if losing track of things is the norm. Paying for an account can help truly engaged teens remember their accounts (i haven't found any teen who permanently lost their MMO login) but it can also be a strong deterrent for those accustomed to starting over. The numbers that people cite concerning accounts created are astoundingly inaccurate and are worthless for talking about usage or unique participants. (added tx to a comment by Rich)
I should note that i don't think that the answer is "help teens remember passwords." I actually think that this tendency to shed is advantageous in the way that we shed clothes every year because the "old me" is no longer relevant. Technology is a bit too obsessed with remembering; there's a lot of value in forgetting.