Authentic Interactions Q1 2012
We’ve observed a fascinating dynamic on iTwixie.com: character-building and challenging content encourages tween girls to respond in extremely positive ways. In this first issue of 2012, we are pleased to share some important observations we’ve made and explore other research-related topics.
Tweens Emulate the Positive
Humans regularly make unconscious changes to our accent or rate of speech when speaking with someone who has a stronger speech pattern. Even without interacting with them, people will spontaneously imitate the speech patterns of others (Goldinger 1998; Shockley et al.2004). This is in regards to speech conducted face-to-face, however, on iTwixie we have found this response to also be applicable.
For example on iTwixie we strive to send a personal note to each new member of the site. As the moderators welcome each new tween girl, we’ve found that the tweens have begun doing the same. A recent new member had six welcome messages left by other iTwixie girls in addition to a moderator’s message.
In addition to responding to our modeled behavior and imitating it, they also invite others to become more involved with the site. On the new member’s page previously mentioned, a tween who has been on the site for about four months wrote on the new member’s Message Wall “hey girl! welcome! do u like it here so far? wanna be bffs? I will send a request! come to my blog!!”
With this short statement, the established member:
- asked the new member a question inviting a response;
- indicated that she would take another step towards connecting with the new member;
- and invited the new member to learn more about her.
This is a set of activities that indicate a deep desire to connect socially. Tween girls are of course, social by nature. A recent study showed that bonding with others increases our levels of progesterone which helps to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress. While these are not the stated goals of iTwixie.com, these are certainly desired benefits of being an active member of the iTwixie online community.
The desire to be part of a community and to belong has long been known to be ingrained in humans. iTwixie is providing the opportunity for tween girls to have a place they can call their own and they are taking advantage of it. Many of the girls are using the blog and commenting features on a daily basis to communicate with others and to project their ideas to others. One member has even created her own writing contest and invited other girls to compete. She picked the winners and the girls enjoyed the opportunity to share their work and compete.
The culture that has developed on iTwixie.com proves that providing authentic, smart and positive content for girls is compelling. The girls are responding to this content in thoughtful ways. With a membership that grows daily and is worldwide, iTwixie members are showing us that they are a diverse group that puts social connections ahead of gossip and guys.
Recently, iTwixie girls have told us that they are proud to be girls. Here’s how Tweens finishes this sentence:
“I am a girl and I…”
“…am strong smart and fun.” 50%
“…so glad I’m not a boy.” 27%
“…feel like I’m growing up too fast.” 18%
“…feel uncomfortable all the time.” 5%
 University of Michigan
Richardson, D., Dale, R., & Shockley, K. (2008). Synchrony and swing in conversation: Coordination, temporal dynamics, and communication. In G. Knoblich (Ed.), Embodied Communication in Humans and Machines. Oxford University Press.
University of Michigan (2009, June 3). Feeling Close To A Friend Increases Progesterone, Boosts Well-being And Reduces Anxiety And Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/06/090602171941.htm