Case 13: The unlikeliest participants

You can generally guess which young people are likely to engage with a social media initiative. At SHMU in Aberdeen we found it's more likely to be the friendliest, those who communicate with staff more, those who are receptive to new ideas and are more engaging. (Of course, there are plenty of exceptions!) Then there are the 'outsiders', young people who are disruptive, who are very negative, who are antisocial, whose behaviour and language is inappropriate. Sometimes individuals from this group will engage.

This was the case with one individual at the Tilly Youth Project. For some reason he needed no encouragement to log on and send messages to staff and other young people. When asked why he took part on the site, he said he did not know, he thought it was easy and it was just something to do. This individual never pushed to get onto one of the few TYP computers, he seemed to be ambivalent.

When we established he was involved in the local boxing club, we began a series of conversations swapping YouTube videos of famous fights: he would upload a video, we would respond with a video and text. These were never true conversations, because our replies never received any responses, perhaps because staff were expressing opinions in text in an adult way and he seemed to find this difficult to respond to. However, we found this individual responded to face to face discussion following from a discussion initiated online.

So, take any engagement and see where it takes you. And don't ignore the offline component in relationships - it's crucial to success.