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MTV recently conducted a meta-study on the younger end of the Millennial demographic to understand how teens today are different than their 20-something counterparts. Among many of the findings in " The New Millennials Will Keep Calm and Carry On ," MTV uncovered how teens across the US are adopting "maker" culture (once attributed to niche corners of Brooklyn and Silver Lake) … in spite of the stereotype that all they do is plug into laptops and iPhones.
A bit of background: Young Millennials (aged 13-17 in 2013) have always been conscious of the chaotic, hyper-competitive world that has slowly become a reality for the rest of us over time.
They know nothing other than an economic downturn, and are aware from a young age that the world is a hyper-competitive place – from college admissions to a tight job market. Bombarded in social media by images of Boston Bombings, Sandy Hook School, tornados and hurricanes, they've been raised in an "always-on" world where they are tapped into multiple feeds 24/7 and perpetually responsible for maintaining their online personal presence. To a Boomer or even Xer, this kind of "coming-of-age" sounds downright exhausting.
But this generation of youth is surprisingly adapting just fine. They've developed their own coping mechanisms to self-soothe, de-stress and de-stimulate. In MTV's research, one of the coping mechanisms we observed is that teens today are unexpectedly choosing to take a break from "multi-tasking" and instead "mono-task," meaning focus on immersive hands-on activities, like baking, sewing or crafting.
In fact, 57% like to take a break from technology to make things with their hands… and 82% agree "when I'm stressed or overwhelmed, I like to stop and just do one thing at a time." As Julia, 17 puts it "When I craft I'm in the zone, it really soothes me."
But this doesn't mean they completely abandon technology in the before and after moments that bookend their making experiences.
They study up in an endless library of DIY YouTube videos, learning how to hand craft books or sew custom iPad cases. They delve deep into Reddit forums to find the perfect way to brown butter with sea salt for chocolate chip cookies, as explained to us by 17-year-old baker Angela, author of Nagel's Bagels. They watch hours of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on Netflix to understand the intricate dynamics of vampire stake making, as told to us by 13-year old Alice who whittles various types of stakes in her spare time.
And the important finishing touch? An Instagram photo of their creation to show the world the 7-layer cake that took 2 hours to bake and 5 minutes to eat. With social media, crafts & baked goods are granted a "second life" and serve an important function in helping hone one's personal self-brand. We see teens today even more adept at developing their unique persona from a young age, realizing both the need to stand out to get social media likes and, moreover, showcase a unique side to get noticed in a highly competitive college admission process.
What we're beginning to see is an emergence of "tech homesteaders," who are nearly perpetually plugged in but carving out spaces to detach and return to the roots of humanity and do things by hand. The pickling, cheese-making and crafting movement we've seen in niche urban pockets seems to be finding appeal with these young teens across the country, with 8 in 10 agreeing "sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things."
For more information on “The New Millennials Will Keep Calm and Carry On” click here.
Alison Hillhouse is the Vice President of Insights Innovation at MTV, where she focuses exclusively on understanding the behaviors and psychological underpinnings of Millennials. She decodes everything from the intricacies of hashtag culture to high school cliques to the creative ethos of the generation. The insights her team uncover help MTV fulfill its research imperative for “radical audience intimacy.”
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