Born in 1988, I’m slap bang in the middle of Generation Y, or the Millennials. Or even Gen C. Which isn’t actually a generation, but more of a state of mind, according to Google. This 20 year period covers people born between 1977 to 1996, or alternatively 1982 to 2001, depending on who you ask. Simple.
But the rate of technological change over the last 10 years has seen Myspace giving way to Facebook and then Twitter then Pinterest then - you get the picture. I’m part of the begrudging, but enslaved Facebook faithful. I text and use Whatsapp. Email and Twitter are both indispensable.
So can you really say that someone born in 1998 uses technology in the same way as me? We decided to find out, so we interviewed two 14-year-olds, a boy and girl, to see how they are using the devices they own and share. Surely those with digital in their DNA will run rings around me, a mere digital native?
Surprisingly, or not for a couple of teenagers, they were as excited about tech as they are about everything, which is rather little, but they clearly can’t live without it.
Five messaging apps in one day
Freya, disgruntled owner of a failing BlackBerry, as well as an iPod, hops between the two devices depending on the task at hand. That means BBMing and chatting with her friends and following funny accounts on Twitter when her main handset allows. She switches when she wants to use Instagram and Snapchat – for chatting to people without BBM, and the “funny pictures” that make it better than Whatsapp. All on a daily basis. Add to that Skype, Facetime and ooVoo – for those urgent group video chats – and you’d think they’d have run out of things to say.
She uses a computer “if I have to”. And Facebook? “I deactivated my account. It’s boring.” I feel a twinge of sadness for my twisted old friend. So what would Ben have to say about a platform that has changed my ability to communicate as much as it has my concept of privacy? “I just left my profile. It’s boring,” he confirmed. Ouch.
No TV, no computer, iPad gathers dust
Ben’s a lucky iPhone 5 user, and also shares an iPad 2 with his brother, but he doesn’t use it. “I don’t watch TV. I don’t use a computer except at school for course work. Nah, I don't have email. I tend to just use my phone. And that’s really just for apps.” Like Freya, he uses a combination of messaging services, iMessage, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter every day. When people don’t have iMessage, he texts people.
Uninterested in the latest games consoles, he plays Clash of the Clans four times a week, where he sees ads for games in-app, but just ignores them. Freya identifies 4Pics1Word as a game that’s been doing the rounds at school, in the past she would have clicked on the “silly pop-up banners”, but not anymore, she says. Apart from that, neither consumes a great deal of content other than funny things their friends allegedly spew out all day long. Even wearable tech doesn't really strike a chord with our teens.
Battery life an inter-generation concern
So what’s the best thing about their phone? “Being in touch with everybody, otherwise you’d just bored out of your head and have nothing to do,” Ben said. “And music I guess. When you’re travelling a long way.” He admits Maps is useful “but I don’t really use it,” he says. “I can talk to friends I don't see often and it entertains me,” Freya adds. Both identify battery life as the killer of their mass communication lifestyle.
Ben also says load times between apps are annoying, as well as the sign-up process when connecting to wi-fi. He suggests making it automatic. Freya, a lone Spotify Premium owner at school, thinks it would be good if more than one person could listen to the music service. But she complains it takes too long to get new music.
And despite this heavy usage, both have little knowledge of the fact that they could make a career out of all this. Phones are banned in school, and will be confiscated, they say. When they do IT, Freya admits she “doesn’t really get it,” while Ben says “they don’t really talk about technology jobs at school.” So. Facebook is about to become an antique, at least in developed markets, facing similar problems in the future as the printed press does today. Email's days could be numbered, and while there is no dominant messaging platform for this Chat Generation, the medium is certainly smartphones for the forseeable.
Let’s hope it’s not too late to funnel this constant connectivity and conversation into something useful. Lol?
Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/facebook-%E2%80%93-daily-telegraph-digital-age#MmHiAA4isLQZlmjD.99