What The Tech World Looks Like To A High Schooler

Snapchat continues to dominate high school, while Facebook settles into its role as a utility.

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Snapchat / Via youtube.com

Josh Miller is the co-founder of Branch and Potluck. He is currently leading a new product initiative at Facebook. This post originally appeared on Medium, and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Just over one year ago, I typed up notes from an informal conversation with my sister and satirically titled it, “Tenth Grade Tech Trends.” It struck a chord. So I decided to do it again.

It’s easy to make fun of the “what are teens doing?!” meme. The criticism is fair. We’ve gone a bit overboard in our fascination with the social habits of our younger siblings and relatives. That said, my biggest gripe with the tech industry today is that we tend to lack empathy —  true, practiced empathy, not just written design maxims —  for people who are not like us (the vast majority of people). So while the anecdotes of a sixteen year old public high school student from Los Angeles are not representative, and will not help you find the next Facebook, I do think the practice of pausing, asking questions, and listening to other people is a good one that should be practiced much more.

For that reason, I did it again this year, and had another, casual conversation with my sister about the apps her and her friends use. Same sister, new grade. Here are the Eleventh Grade Tech Trends.


The ephemeral messaging app is more popular than it has ever been. Surprisingly, my sister cites the (relatively) new Stories feature as being a “huge success” and a large factor in the service’s increasing usage. She described the feature as being, “a non-judgmental Newsfeed to share what you’re doing, who you’re with and, most popularly, how pretty you look.” That’s quite a big addition (and new market) if you consider how much Snapchat was already dominating the messaging/communication use case.

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The other day Ev Williams mentioned that he thought that all successful products have an original, core innovation, and then a subsequent rocket ship one that puts the service over the edge. For Facebook, the former was “friending” and the latter was Newsfeed. For Snapchat, the core innovation was ephemeral messages. Could Stories be their rocket ship? It sure sounds like it.

Even if it isn’t, there is a lot of brand loyalty and enthusiasm surrounding the company right now. When I texted her, asking what she thought of the “Chat” update, she responded:

I don’t know yet! it’s still so confusing so I’m not use to itbut at this point snapchat can add anything and it will become popular

That speaks for itself.


My sister described the photo sharing network as “where you express who you are,” which benefits from an “always interesting, specific” feed. Though still wildly popular, my sister mentioned that anxiety around “like-to-follower ratios” and “judgmental viewers” has been leading to less posting amongst her and her friends. I’m twenty-three, which is old compared to my sister, but even I have seen this sentiment pop up in my feed:

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Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/joshmiller/what-the-tech-world-looks-like-to-a-high-schooler