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Monday, 6 April 2015

Social Media: observations of the digital native

Today’s blog post is another educational one. There is a term that people have been using in recent years to talk about the generation of online users who grew up around technology. These people are called “digital natives”. They are well-versed in social media and have no trouble moving seamlessly between online platforms. In the advertising world, it is understood that capturing the attention of a digital native gives you the power to make your message go viral. The hard part is understanding them.

I thought I would explore the concept of the digital native in today’s post. The term really captures the feeling of trying to interpret a social media platform you don’t use; you feel like an anthropologist trying to decipher the codes and symbols of an unfamiliar culture. You can observe their behaviour, but can only speculate as to what it all means. In honour of that feeling, I have written down some anthropological notes about the study of digital natives and their behaviour on various social media platforms.


The digital native spends a lot of time on Instagram. Because of the many filter options, the digital native is able to share photos of themselves without anyone actually knowing what they look like. It is the cultural equivalent of a masquerade ball. Digital natives use it to establish themselves as a member of the social elite, posting highly stylized photographs of their everyday lives. Some  even take to posting black and white photographs of rain on a windowpane. Is this person an artist? Is this post some kind of statement? Was the digital native simply bored, being stuck inside all day, and thought it might be fun to take a picture? The beauty of Instagram is that on this platform, anything can be art; anything can be a statement. The digital native is nothing if not cutting-edge.

"Cutting edge"

Common uses:

  1. Making yourself look really, really cool
  2. Letting people know what you had for lunch that day, but in, like, a “cool” way


YouTube is considered a social media site. However, it is a common misconception that digital natives will post videos to this platform. The truth is, video sharing is YouTube’s secondary purpose. Its primary purpose is to give digital natives the opportunity to have extensive arguments in the comment section. It does not matter what the YouTube video is actually about; the video is more of an icebreaker to the digital native—like wearing a funky necklace to a party. The digital native will argue any topic, ranging from tension in the Middle East to how Dexter really should have ended. 

Common uses:

  1. Watching old or foreign TV shows in 3 parts, watching Taylor Swift music videos, and watching clips of cats
  2. Yelling about Obama in the comments section


The digital native has an uncontrollable urge to broadcast their thoughts to the world. For this reason, the digital native uses Twitter to construct short, vacuous statements about the weather, how long it’s taking for the bus to get there, how they missed the bus because they were looking at their phone, and the ever-popular how much they are enjoying their kale salad #kalesalad

In fact, digital natives are so proud of their thoughts and opinions that they are even willing to engage in one-on-one conversations with celebrities, brands, musicians, and even political figures. Unlike the rest of humanity, the digital native seems to truly believe that all of their thoughts are gems, and everyone always wants to hear what they have to say. 

Common uses:

  1. Criticizing celebrities
  2. Speaking @ each other, rather than with each other


Once a sprawling metropolis of online conversation, today, Facebook is merely a relic from an earlier time. The elders of the tribe can still remember how they used to share links, indicate their approval of a friend’s post, and even playing games on this platform. Now, the digital native barely ever uses Facebook to communicate. This is because in recent years, it has been overtaken by another group: the digital immigrants. A digital immigrant is someone who adopted an online presence later in life. These people are typically old and irrelevant. Much like in the real world, digital natives try not to have too much contact with digital immigrants, preferring instead to restrict them to the dark recesses of the online social world. It is here that the digital immigrant will post blurry photos of retirement parties and their daughters’ dance recitals. 

Common uses:

  1. Occasionally untagging some unflattering pictures
  2. Making sure you haven’t missed your aunt’s birthday
  3. Checking to see if that guy from High School is still dating that girl—Alex or Amy or something 


This platform is only for the elite. Only the most self-assured, pretentious, pedantic digital natives will have their own blog. These people are not social pariahs as one might presume. On the contrary; all of these qualities are held in the highest esteem by the digital native. Popular topics for blogs are fashion, DIY, travel, and the Advertising Account Management program at Sheridan College. The best blogs are those that are thought-provoking and shamelessly self-referential. Digital natives that are able to construct such a blog are celebrated as gods among men. 

Common uses:

  1. Inciting valuable conversations
  2. Creating content that people enjoy and are almost never critical of 

I hope that these notes have been informative. If you have any other observations to share, please post them in the comment section below. Let me take this opportunity to remind you that this is not a YouTube comment section, so keep your comments positive and at least somewhat relevant.


  1. You forgot the most valuable aspect of Facebook - posting notices of new blog posts!

  2. Instagram is also a place where Nina tags Rachele in super adorable doge pics ;) Very informative post Rach :)