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Technology

Miley Cyrus Leaves Twitter, Yet the Internet Limps On

The departure of Miley Cyrus from Twitter has caused seismic waves of socio-technological uproar—or so you'd think by reading elegaic posts from the Washington Post, Yahoo News, Reuters, MSNBC and, perplexingly, NJ.com, all of whom covered the "story." But the real story: nobody cares about Miley Cyrus quitting Twitter, not even people on Twitter.

Miley Cyrus Quits Twitter

A #mileycomeback topic did top Twitter's trends all day Thursday but has since been trounced by, among other things, President Obama's one-word Twitter reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize: #humbled.

Humbled

In fact, if you look more closely at the #mileycomeback trend, you'll see that it's being bolstered by the repeated tweets of one user, someone called ShoomenJr, a shill account whose profile reports no followers and no one followed. (So I misspoke: someone cares. But only this guy.)

ShoomenJr

But isn't this the same Miley that can sell out 12,000 seat concerts in minutes? And doesn't she hold the record for the best-performing concert movie? Yes, the real life Hannah Montana is popular enough to have her own Wal-Mart clothing line, but on Twitter, she's a relative nobody. Why? Because her fans don't use Twitter.

According to The New York Times and comScore, just 11% of Twitter users are between ages 11 and 17. As the Times explains:

In fact, though teenagers fueled the early growth of social networks, today they account for 14 percent of MySpace's users and only 9 percent of Facebook's. As the Web grows up, so do its users, and for many analysts, Twitter's success represents a new model for Internet success. The notion that children are essential to a new technology's success has proved to be largely a myth.

In fact, Twitter's meteoric popularity might be a product of older people just now figuring out that they can talk to anyone and everyone on the Internet. (At least that's the case with one savvy 27-year-old we've profiled before.) Of course, teenagers discovered this years ago, with instant messaging, chat rooms, online gaming, social networks and, for delinquents, Digg, and 4Chan. The Times continues: "[Twitter's] growth has instead come from adults who might not have used other social sites before Twitter, said Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst studying social media."

That raises a question entirely discrete from the Miley Cyrus incident: will the next generation of Web users pick up Twitter? The service has pervaded cable news, new-age marketing, brand "conversations" and a boat-load of other middle-aged pablum, and so we assume it's here to stay. But if Twitter becomes "your parents' social Web," it might well bore Generation Z. Even Twitter's most voluble and famous young users like Frances Cobain, daughter of Kurt and wife Courtney Love, delete their accounts after only a few screeds.

Perhaps it's simply too easy to delete a Twitter account. The startup could take cues from Facebook, whose deletion process is so fraught with survey questions, requirements, and multi-page processes that there is an entire Facebook group dedicated to achieving that nirvana that is account deletion.

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