A Device Generation

A Device Generation

I really cherish my weekend routine of slowing down a little bit. We have a great pattern in our house these days. Don gets up early with the dog to let her out, then crawls back into bed with me so we can snooze a little bit more. (The part about Don being the one to get up early might be the best part of the pattern!) I then throw on the sweats, walk the dog on a “longer than work morning” adventure while Don gets “real” coffee from a local coffee shop and we settle in to read the newspaper—preferably on the deck.

This weekend, I found myself drawn into a story about a young teenager as it followed through her day and her use of social media. I was part horrified at the 24/7 pressure that constant connectivity brings to a young person and part delighted that my kids had missed all of that social media and connectivity during their precious and sensitive early teen years. The relationships and interactions that are really no more than electronic connections and responses was impersonal enough, but to read about the pressure these young people feel at how many people follow your Instagram account or Twitter feed or how these vulnerable tweens are judging themselves based on the number of “likes” they get on a posting. (Although, let’s get real, Facebook is way “old school” for this generation. It’s now for their parents to use to stay connected and that by definition makes it very uncool.)

I had just about forgotten my angst over the story when I picked up the Washington Post again today (not over a nice breakfast, but while eating a salad at my computer so there are some nice olive oil blotches on the newspaper … because I am indeed a relic and like to turn the pages of newsprint) and saw another cover story on researchers deciphering the generation that is nurtured on devices. While at every turn of technology (radio, television, telephone, Internet), there has been concern that technology would become a pivot point for drastic societal evolution, but certainly that evolution has never happened as rapidly and as pervasively as it has become today with a younger generation being as wired and connected and device-driven as they are. This Generation Z is worth studying. This fall, those on the older end of this generation will be voting for the first time. By 2019, there will be millions of this generation entering the workforce, and by 2020, Generation Z will control roughly $3 trillion in purchasing power. That means there is a wealth of information to be mined as automakers figure out what technology these consumers will demand being in their cars and for our industry, will they be consuming all of their video on YouTube instead of live TV? And what does that mean to advertising revenues or even video offerings?

The timing for all of this contemplation was perfect given the 115 young rural youth that will be coming in to D.C. this weekend for the Foundation for Rural Service Youth Tour. I know that our FRS team fully intends to use their time with these consumers of tomorrow to better understand what their current and future technology needs are, and I’m interested in seeing what they come up with. These discussions will take place in between meetings on Capitol Hill, at the FCC and viewing the important, historical sites of this city. However, the study that showed that this Generation Z thinks it’s acceptable to use a smartphone basically anytime and anywhere (including at their OWN future wedding) does have me a tad nostalgic.

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