On this special edition of The Hopkinson Report, Jim is on vacation, so I, Brandon Werner (Intern 1.0 for long time The Hopkinson Report listeners) guest-hosts. I explain why Social Media is the new dividing factor between Generation Y and their Baby Boomer parents.
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On Hopkinson Report Episode 102, Jim interviewed me on my research on my generation, the millennial AKA Generation Y. This group is also called the echo-boom, as they are the children of the famous Baby Boomers. Since recording that episode, I had a revelation that will be the topic of this episode.
When I was a child, I remember my parents (baby boomers/teens of the 60’s and 70’s) used to tell me stories of how their parents ‘just didn’t get it’. Their formative teenage years were filled with Woodstock, the anti-Vietnam movement, Nixon. These were the years of Rock and Roll and there was a sharp divide between the baby boomers and their ‘Greatest Generation’ parents.
Through my teenage years, I never really felt that level of misunderstanding between my parents and I. In fact, my parents ‘got-it’ almost too well. I wanted to learn drums and be in a band, my dad taught me how to do it from his own experiences, If I tried to dye my hair, my mom would show me how. The classic parent/son anti-piercing or tattoo fight? They actually encouraged them (so I didn’t really have any drive to get them). I would say I wanted to go to a Green Day concert, and my dad would ask to come with me.
From talking to my friends, this is pretty standard.
Where was our rebellion or revolution?
Where was our Rock and Roll?
Recently, after a few failed attempts to communicate exactly what I do for a living, I think I found it. Our Rock and Roll is Social Media.
As I mentioned, the big events of my parents’ formative years are immortalized as the hippie and rock movements, I look back on the last ten years and one movement sticks out plain to see, Web 2.0 and the rise of the social networks. While it is hard to imagine, Facebook has only been around for five years. In that time, it has amassed over 500 million users, half of which log in on any given day. More than half of everyone in their 20’s has a Facebook profile.
I am not exaggerating when I say it is hard to imagine life without Facebook, but it is just one site. Think about how much YouTube, for example has changed the way we watch entertainment. I believe we just witnessed a milestone in how advertising is done with the recent Old Spice man response videos. Who wasn’t talking about those?
In a time where not so long ago, people were saying TIVO was going to destroy advertising, we are passing around commercials and watching them for enjoyment! These videos received 45 millions views in just 2.5 weeks, with Old Spice sales going up 107% since the campaign started. When I asked my dad what he thought, he replied ‘Old Spice? That was for old people! Talk about brand transformation.
The eternal disagreement with my parents is, ‘why don’t you get off that computer’. They would rather me do anything other than sit at the computer, including sit and watch television. For the baby boomers, the first computer they ever learned to use was at work or maybe Atari. It is a single use tool, or even a toy. For us Millennials, we can not even remember a time before computers. For me, sitting and just watching television is absurdly boring when I can be doing other things as well.
For me, my computer/iPad/iPhone are my television, office, bank, notebook, phone, book, canvas, post-office, etc. Try to think when was the last time you had a phone conversation for over a hour on a landline. When was the last time you stepped foot in the Post Office? Been to a Blockbuster lately? Stood on an actual line to get tickets to a concert? How about had film developed?
Even our dating has moved online, with online matchmaking sites being one of the internet’s biggest businesses. Eharmony throws around the statistic that it is responsible for 2% of US marriages and a recent study says that up to 1 in 3 relationships today start online. Even crazier, 1 in 8 couples married in 2009 met via Social Media.
I think one of the biggest differences between generations is old friends. My parents have a tight circle of friends, but anyone they knew from high school or college that moved away from the area, they have little, if any contact with. This just sounds so alien to me. My best friends are scattered all over the country right now, but through twitter, Facebook, and texts. I have constant contact with them. Sure, its not physical, but its comforting to talk to people I have known since childhood.
I know that my parents think on some level what I do on the computer is almost akin to playing a video game. They can’t even fathom that I am actually talking to real people on Gchat, having interesting conversations on twitter, producing content that helps get my name out there, or god-forbid making money on the internet through freelance.
We are living in an absurdly exciting time. In my opinion, this could be looked back as one of the most important decades in history. We are (almost) all carrying pocket-sized computers which hold access to all of humanity’s knowledge. It’s a shame Douglas Adams died before he could see humanity with basically The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in our pockets. We are able to instantly connect us with anyone we want, even in video form. We get updated the second any important thing happens to our friends and family, and get the world news at basically the speed of light without the limitations of paper. Think about this: 150 years ago, it took the Pony Express ten days to get a letter from Missouri to San Francisco. Today, we can get a letter from Missouri to China in seconds.
From my parents, I have seen the wonder, but usually aversion to the progress that not only the internet, but the socially networked internet is bringing to the world. They are amazingly supportive of what I do with my life, but every so often things break down and they show just how much they don’t understand. Yes, I know that the largest growing group right now on Facebook is the 55+ year-olds, but for the most part, they aren’t using social media in every facet of their lives to the level the Generation-Y, Millennials are. I know there are many exceptions to what I am saying and I am sure any one listening to this podcast that is a Baby Boomer is one of those exceptions.
But I think I can safely say that Social Media is an invention forged by Millennials and younger Generation Xers.
Mark Zuckerburg founder of Facebook – 26.
Kevin Rose founder of Digg – 33.
Jack Dorsey co-founder of Twitter – 33.
David Karp founder of Tumblr – 24.
For a little comparison. When the Beatles came to America in 1964, largely regarded as one of the keystone moments in rock history, John Lennon was 24! 24! I’m 25 and I don’t think I’ve written anything as profound as Can’t Buy Me Love.
Then why this drive to spill our life and feelings out digitally in little bite-sized pieces? Well, let’s look at music’s equivalent of bite-sized spilling of life and feelings, Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll flourished in the 60’s and 70’s. For teenagers and Young Adults, it was a pretty disillusioning time. America was caught in seemingly unending war, there was a serious split between left and right political views, and the economy was in the toilet. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Like Rock, Social Media allows us to vent and feel connected to a greater whole. Like many people my age, I graduated into one of the worst economies in history with a masters and nothing to do with it. I have applied to over 150 jobs, attend meet-up groups monthly, but still have not found full-time employment. Instead of wallowing in self pity, I decided to put all my time that was not spent working on freelance or searching for full-time into jumping headfirst into Social Media, developing my own blogging collective of people in similar situations. I know I am far from the only one in my age group doing this thanks to the connections I’ve made online.
Neil Young said ‘Hey hey, my my, Rock and Roll will never die’ and I think the same applies to Social Media. Sure it will become more and more mainstream, and one day will evolve into a part of everyone’s life. I am sure my age-group’s children will be all over it, in fact my feeds are filling with baby pictures at the moment. What I find even scarier than this is that this poor children could one day sign up for Facebook with 1,000 pictures of them already. You know those embarrassing pictures your mother shows to your friends when they visit? Oh boy!
Just as social media confuses my parents, I am sure these facebook feed babies will find something that confuses my generation.
I hate saying this. I really do. It makes me sound like a whiny brat. It makes me sound like a hippie/rocker/punk talking about their parents in the 60’s and 70’s. The millennial generation helped change the course of an election using Social Media electing the first black president, saved Conan O’Brien’s career with Team Coco, almost destroyed and then revitalized the music industry with MP3 downloading, and are completely changing the publication and advertising industries. To our generation this is exciting, this is ours, this is Rock and Roll!
If you disagree with anything I said in this episode, I say relax, its only Social Media, but I like it, like it, yes I do.