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Opinion and Insight

How We’re All Having More Millenni-lols IRL, Just Don’t Call Us That...

You might have heard that everyone my age is taking less drugs, having less sex and are less likely to believe in love and get married... but now thank god we’re partying more. Hallelujah

How We’re All Having More Millenni-lols IRL, Just Don’t Call Us That...

The revelation comes from a study by specialist creative agency ZAK, in their research searching for alternative ways to define under 30’s other than the usual stereotype favoured by the media of ‘millennials.’

ZAK points out the label that first came about in 1991, is used to define anyone born between 1981 - 1996, and it definitely seems simplistic to suggest everyone born during a 15 year period can be defined as the same... Instead, they propose new ways of defining the characteristics of under 30’s by exploring young people’s instinctive and cultural relationships with risk, novelty and - my favourite - belonging.

We were the generation that witnessed the demise of scheduled telly; can’t-miss TV events that we might have invited mates round to watch with us, or at least discussed at uni or work the next day. In the age of on-demand viewing we can watch or catch-up on the big events anytime, anywhere, there is no TV you can’t-miss. And as the guinea pigs of (anti) social media, Katie White MD at i-D magazine explains: “our media consumption is fragmented and abundant and accessible. Things lose value. (As a result) young people are craving shared moments in space and time...”

Nothing, says ZAK, proves our inherent need to hang out with like-minded souls IRL more than the huge rise of ‘live.’ In the UK over the past year, attendance to music concerts and festivals has increased by 3 million. Sure, in part we’re keener than ever to show off our Glastonbury ticket on Instagram. But more than just attendance-based social kudos, festivals (amongst other shared events) create a tangible sense of community. We create and reinforce bonds by sharing the experience, and it’s not (very often!) like you can slip off in an uber to go watch Netflix with just your social anxiety for company the next morning - so you share the good, the bad and the ugly, and the bonds are further enforced.

ZAK reckons our hunger for real life experiences seep into our relationship with novelty too. This is evidenced by a recent surge in vinyl sales- a signal of young people’s’ hunt “for more from entertainment and media choices.” Paul Noble, founder of the Spiritland music shop notes that the emergence of streaming services means “the way that we consume music has become like a utility - just another one of your bills at the end of the month.” He’s basically saying anyone can stream Future’s mixtape the day it’s released, but ‘real’ Future fans might buy one of the 500 limited edition vinyl copies - as the success of Omerta inc, a small British label pressing underground US Hip Hop onto vinyl will testify.

I wonder if the novelty of ‘the chase’ is also enticing to us, in an age when getting all kinds of stuff - from Spotify, Asos, Uber and Deliveroo is almost too easy. “The spike in ‘analogue’ interests represents a way to cultivate a deeper connection to things, for sure” says Emmy Favilla, Buzzfeed’s copy chief.

You only have to note what happens at the latest trainer drop, or when a new Supreme collaboration hits. For many, it’s not enough to just click and wait. Groups gather outside hours prematurely, not only to ensure a place in the queue but to soak up the hype. To share the feeling that other people are into the same thing - the brand that unites them serves as an offline touchpoint with a likeminded human who may look completely different but shares a common point of view. The lines between seeking out the new and finding a sense of shared belonging are blurred. Are the queues a slightly gross ode to capitalism? Definitely. But the novelty of the new shoes isn’t enough, we need the meaning of the people we meet along the way.

Is this why young people are hooking up with each other less, taking fewer drugs and just generally swapping all nighters for a juice bar and a sober day rave? Are we searching for meaning?

Emily Favilla reckons “millennials are perhaps taking risks (both in their careers and in relationships) with less trepidation than previous generations.” Are we making ourselves more meaningful? No longer hiding behind a social profile but proudly displaying who we are, what we want and what we stand for. 20% of Millennials say they are something other than straight (vs 7% of ‘baby boomers’) and 1 in 2 young people say they are not 100% heterosexual. 

Ultimately there’s never been a generation so exposed to technology as ours, we’ve definitely developed some first world ailments (short attention spans and phantom phone vibration anyone?!) and still don’t know the long term physiological effects of being glued to social media. Fundamentally though, our relationship with culture and its ever changing state due to technology, means that whatever traits we end up with because of it will exhibit themselves differently. Not only to other generations, but to other individuals and therefore we can’t be defined as one group.

ZAK’s research is an interesting investigation into young people’s characteristics and relationships with the world around them, and a strong case for abolishing lazily branding of all young people as millennials. But what else shall we call them that rolls off the tongue? Answers on a postcard.

This article was written by Google's Youth Advisor, Georgia LA.

Genre: People , Storytelling , Strategy/Insight