Think about your daily morning routine. It probably involves getting out of bed, having breakfast, brushing your teeth and then getting on with your day.
But for many of teens none of this happens before one important task: sending a KTS to your streak list.
For anyone older than Generation Z this may sound completely foreign — as it did to me — but it’s something they take very seriously, and even plays a major role in their relationships.
(Those who are classified as Generation Z were born between 1996 and 2010.)
“Every morning I send a KTS to people on my streak list,” says Katie, 17.
“When you lose it you cry,” says Amelia, 18.
“Losing a streak shows someone you’re angry at them,” says Liv, 17.
What they are talking about are snapstreaks on Snapchat, whereby users send their friends a Snapchat each day and see how many days they can keep it going for. Thus, “keep the streak” or “KTS” is born.
It’s an ingenious function by the social media company.
“We Snapchat each other every day,” says Katie.
“Once Amelia and I lost on day 478.”
It’s so important to keep the streak that they even find sneaky ways to keep it in check.
“I used to log into Katie’s account when she was away,” says Amelia.
“I gave her my password so she could keep it [the streak] up,” said Katie.
And it’s totally bad when someone intentionally breaks it.
“This one time Katie was really mad at me and she wasn’t speaking to me for ages. She was so mad at me that she lost the streak,” said Liv.
And while Snapchat is a monster in itself with its “snapcodes”, which they share at parties instead of exchanging numbers, each social media platform has its own strict set of rules.
“Things I post on my Snapchat I would never post on Instagram,” says Katie.
Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and iMessage are their life source, and they are very particular in the way they use them, and how often.
“When you’re out you take photos and then when you get home you have post them,” says Liv. “You wait until ‘prime time’ to post.”
“Prime time is like 7.30 to 8pm,” says Katie. “Never in the morning. That also works for Facebook. You have to wait to see when your friends are active.”
But having heaps of followers is the ultimate goal.
“It’s about ratio,” added Liv. “It depends on your followers.”
“So I have 500 people on Instagram and my average likes is 100, 150. I would delete a photo if it was 40 likes,” said Katie.
And forget posting a photo without the consultation of your friends. To do so would be social suicide, apparently.
“You would never post a photo without consulting your friends,” says Katie.
“You would chuck it [the photo] in a group chat with a few different edits and they would tell you,” says Liv.
“And then you would send a Snapchat to your friends telling them to like the photo once it’s posted,” says Katie.
“Or if your friends are in it you would be like, ‘look at the photo I just posted’,” says Liv.
When it comes to other apps, they aren’t interested.
“I would never use KIK or email. Well, I use it for work and school and that’s about it,” said Katie.
“Instagram stories are pointless. Nobody uses them unless you’re famous. It’s trying to take over Snapchat and they’re not going to. Snapchat is too big.”
“And I don’t get Twitter,” said Liv.
“Me either,” agreed Amelia.
“People don’t use it [Twitter], unless you’re a fan girl and want to message famous people,” said Katie.
With so many guidelines, it’s any wonder they have time for anything else in their life. But they do.
“Most afternoons I will end up FaceTiming someone,” says Amelia. “It’s a bit more personal, rather than a call over the phone.”
“Yeah, even though I’m at school all day with this one friend, and we have every class together, when we get home from school we might FaceTime at around 6pm or 7pm then have dinner and then FaceTime again until we go to bed,” says Liv.
“We might not be talking all the time. We might be doing homework together and not saying anything but then I’ll be like ‘Hey, what did you get for this question?'”
The price of being “connected”
With such copious amounts of time spent on these apps you have to ask how much data they are using, and who is paying for it.
“My phone plan is unlimited phone calls, limited texts and 10 gigs of data,” says Amelia.
“The reason I have so much data is because dad ended up paying $600 on top of my phone plan because I was using apps that sucked up my data.”
Amelia, along with Katie, have their parents paying for their phone costs. Liv pays for half of hers.
“And that’s way I don’t go over my phone bill,” she says.
From what they told me, it only takes one outrageous bill — like the one Amelia racked up — for them to learn their lesson. Now they have strategies to ensure their usage stays under control.
“When I’m out of the house I don’t use Snapchat or Instagram because I only have limited data. I only have one gig a month,” says Liv.
“I’ll only text or call people if I’m going see them otherwise I don’t use my phone it at all until I’m at home,” where, she says, she uses the home wifi network. “I pretty much leave my data off all the time when I’m out unless I need to use it, or can use a wifi.”
“I’ll turn my data off when I get a warning at 50% and 75% and instead connect to any wifi I can,” said Amelia. “If I go to someone’s house and hit my data limit I ask to connect to their wifi.”
“Yeah, if I have a group coming over I will just write the password down for everyone, or you offer it because you know it’s so awkward asking,” added Katie.
In case you are wondering, each girl has more than 200 followers on Snapchat, more than 400 followers on Instagram and more than 850 on Facebook — a follower base they have worked hard for, and do so every day.
It’s to the point that there isn’t a moment where they don’t have their mobiles with them.
“I take my phone to the toilet, to the kitchen, everywhere,” admitted Liv.
“I wouldn’t leave the house without it,” says Amelia. “It’s with me 24/7.”
“You freak out when the battery is at 1%,” says Katie.
“Every time I’m near a charger — in the car or at home — I plug it in,” says Liv.
With such heavy use of their phones you would think they would be making use of something else other than just data. But between Katie and Liv, they made an average of 3 calls a day.
Amelia was the exception, making 17 in a day.
“In terms of calling and messaging, I call people more than I text people,” said Katie. “And I only iMessage people anyway so it’s using the internet.”
So how is this impacting the telcos?
It’s this exact behaviour that has telco execs nervous.
Speaking at the Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum in Tokyo, attended by our tech editor Tony Yoo, Jesper Oldenburg, mobile strategy & technology vice president at Denmark’s TDC Group, said escalating data consumption has telcos trying to figure out how to provide sufficient mobile capacity. He says the demand that will only increase in the coming years.
“Providing really high speed coverage everywhere has really changed the behaviour and demands [of mobile users]. We have been testing completely unlimited data plans and people go crazy,” he said.
Yoo reported that at the same conference Hidebumi Kitahara, senior director at Japan’s SoftBank Corporation, said that mobile data consumption per user has increased 1.5 to 2 times every year.
“We used to provide 5GB for $50,” he told the forum. “But with 5GB, users are not satisfied anymore. So what we decided to do was, for an additional $10, users can get four times the data capacity — 20GB.”
To put that into perspective, according to Confused.com’s mobile data usage calculator, 5GB of data would let you spend 256 continuous hours on Facebook, or you could stream 1,706 tracks on Spotify.
And it’s one of the reasons why some of the biggest carriers in Australia, such as Vodafone and Telstra, and the rest of the world are homing in on 5G — the next generation of mobile phone networks.