Surprising Anti-Millennial Psyche of Internet Natives: Chapter Three

By 1stFive Archives
Cover image for  article: Surprising Anti-Millennial Psyche of Internet Natives: Chapter Three

Chapter 3 of Jack Myers' book Hooked Up: A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World, published in June 2012 and winner of the International Book Award for Youth Issues.

Internet Pioneers are the first generation of Internet Natives and have scarcely known life without the Internet. Born between 1991 and 1995, Internet Pioneers have graduated from high school. A few are starting families. Whether Internet Pioneers are in college, working or looking for work in a destabilized economy, they're facing unprecedented challenges. Many still live at home or will need to live at home after college.

There's no digital or technology divide among Internet Pioneers. Kids from the poorest neighborhoods have been early adopters of the latest mobile phones. They text, game, and use YouTube. Everyone has access to the same technology and everyone uses it in similar ways.

24/7 online and mobile connectivity is the norm for Internet Pioneers. They don't "go online;" their online and offline worlds converge into one "always on" reality. They are socializing almost all the time. As my 19-year-old stepdaughter Izzy said: "I don't think about the role or impact the Internet has on me and my life. It's just there."

To Internet Pioneers, computers have always been small enough, Google has always been a verb and cell phones have been in their hands for much of their lives. These students depend on technology in ways not previously seen in other age groups. The 2011 Cisco Connected Technology Report stated that "One of every three college students and young employees believes the Internet is as important as air, water, food, and shelter." The survey also found that two out of five college students ranked surfing the Internet above dating, hanging out with friends and even listening to music. This means that slightly less than half of Internet Pioneers are as happy to socialize online as face to face.

According to a survey sponsored by Pearson Foundation, many of today's college students consider a high-speed Internet connection more important than any single person on campus. Of 1,434 community college students surveyed in 2011, more than 70 percent believe that a high-speed Internet connection is essential for educational success.

My 2012 research further backs this up:

  • 95% of Internet Pioneers are on Facebook and 50% update daily;
  • 47% "tweet;"
  • 40% use check-in apps like Foursquare and Facebook Places;
  • 44% write their own blog while 62% comment on the blogs of others;
  • 52% post their own videos to YouTube;
  • 58% engage with virtual worlds;
  • 83% play online and/or console games;
  • A whopping 90% shop online, with 52% using online coupons from Groupon, Living Social and other "sales deal" sites.

Typical Internet Pioneers wake up in the morning, turn off the Smartphone alarm and immediately check for new texts or emails. In seconds, they can respond to messages from school and friends, accept an invitation to lunch, and wish friends a happy birthday via Facebook. Communication is as much a part of their routines as brushing their teeth.

Internet Pioneers: A Subset of the Millennials

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the larger generation that includes the subset of Internet Pioneers. Millennials are the last generation born in the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st––including everyone born between 1980 and 2005, a total in the United States of 105 million people. (In the addendum to this book is the Wikipedia description of Millennials.)

Whatever the purpose for analyzing this generation––sociology, political, marketing, urban planning––it's misguided to consider Millennials as a single cohesive generation. They comprise three (or more) overlapping but distinct and diverse subsets that have the computer and television as their common bond.

Younger post-Internet Millennials bornafter 1995, many of whom were born into homes with computers already connected to the Internet and AOL, will be dramatically different from those pre-Internet Millennials born from 1982 to 1991, whose first years may have included computer software and games, but who were typically not online until well into their school years.

Internet Pioneers are the Bridge Generation between pre- and post-Internet Millennials. They make use of media far more actively than any generation before them. They are creating systems and platforms and new ways of integrating media in all aspects of their lives. They expect to be able to use technology and media to make their lives better. They assume technology will be there for dealing with things as simple as attending meetings via their cell phone, voting, teleconferencing with teachers, and controlling their home electronics. They are more likely to shop online, and their sophisticated understanding of privacy issues is greater than prior studies have suggested.

They spend inordinate amounts of time in pursuits far, far different from those of generations before them. As you will read throughout this book they are the anti-Millennials, contradicting almost every norm that has been established for pre-Internet Millennials.

Pre-Internet Millennials

The older Millennials (born 1980-1990) are more comparable to the younger Gen-Y cohort born in the mid-1970s when microprocessors quietly entered the scene.

"Computers began to invade everyday life with astonishing speed. It was more than sixty years between Watt's first rotary steam engine and the coining of the phrase Industrial Revolution, but it was clear that a computer revolution was under way less than a decade after the first microprocessor was produced. The first commercial products were handheld calculators that quickly sent the adding machine and the slide rule into oblivion. Word processors began to replace the typewriter in the mid-1970s. And microprocessors, unseen and usually unnoted, began to be used in automobiles, kitchen appliances, television sets, wristwatches and hundreds of other everyday items. Many new products––cordless phones, cell phones, DVDs, CDs, digital cameras, PDAs ––would not be possible without them. By the 1990s they were ubiquitous…..Today tens of millions of children and adolescents have on their desks, and use constantly, computing power that would have been beyond the reach of all but national governments thirty years ago. Their developing brains are… being wired to use computers as an adjunct of their own intellect."
John Gordon Steele
An Empire of Wealth: Rise of the American Economy 1607-2000

Second Wave Millennials

Internet Pioneers, the second wave of Millennials, also have had their brains figuratively connected directly to the Internet, accounting for their informed perspectives on politics, social involvement, education, religion, sexuality, women's rights and many other issues.

The all-encompassing Millennial or Gen-Y group is also known as the MTV Generation. But the Internet Pioneer subset is better described as the Nickelodeon Generation. Think of the differences between MTV and Nick and you get the differences between older Millennials and Internet Pioneers. (Read more about this in Chapter 11.)

The five-year Internet Pioneer group born between 1991 and 1995 represents only 20 percent of total Millennials, yet they promise to be the most influential and important bloc not only among Millennials but one of the most influential of the past (or next) 100 plus years.

What is the Fundamental Nature of Internet Pioneers?

· They are confidently empowered, but do not consider themselves to be entitled.

· They are focused on themselves, but care deeply about their families and their friends, which is sometimes an imposing responsibility.

· They have opinions and respect the opinions of others, and have little patience or tolerance for uninformed viewpoints.

· They expect to be given the freedom and power to manage their lives, yet seek out and consider the advice of others.

· They are perfectionists who strive to achieve, assuming they have the ability and potential;

· They question the rules but mostly live within them.

· They accept and embrace diversity, not as an aspiration, but as an accepted reality.

· They are global in their vision and also embrace and value their local communities.

· They are spiritual and open to universal thinking about life after death and their responsibilities in this life.

· They celebrate and value both intelligence and fun.

· They're creative and love talented musicians, actors, writers, and artists, and they also embrace creativity in everyday activities.

· They have a sense of humor and embrace sarcasm. They're clear on the difference between being funny and being insensitive to others.

· They expect to marry and have families but are in no hurry. They're sexually active and accepting of different sexual lifestyles.

· They want the opportunity to achieve their goals and dreams as we all do; they understand that the world is a difficult and challenging place, and that they need to work hard to achieve these goals.

These attributes differ in many ways from those of the Millennials who were born before them.

How do Internet Pioneers Spend Their Time?

They watch more television than any generation before them, yet they find time to create and watch YouTube videos, blog and text non-stop, browse the web, endlessly play video and social games, listen to music, hold down paying jobs, spend time with their family, and somehow get their homework done. They take connectivity for granted, expect to have 24/7 access to each other, their families, information, shopping, music, movies and television.

We know they are active and engaged via technology, but how about Internet Pioneers' offline lives? Although they may be constantly texting, Tweeting or updating, all but a handful also spend quality time each day with their families and "in person" time with friends. They have personal hobbies and complete their homework. More than two-thirds play sports or participate in activities such as music, dance or drama. 75 percent actually pick up a newspaper, magazine or book (including textbooks) in print format every day (a habit that connects Internet Pioneers to previous generations but an activity that will inevitably wane among future Internet Natives). Considering all this activity, a surprising number of Internet Pioneers claims to spend a few minutes each day awake but doing nothing. How do they find the time to do nothing at all? My guess is they're actually engaged doing something but just not defining it.

Most (64 percent) Internet Pioneers rarely see a live sporting event, concert, theater or other out-of-home entertainment, which certainly contradicts the perceptions of marketers who invest billions in on-site sponsorship of these events. Only 8 percent attend live events at least once weekly. Those who are college students are actively partying, but they're less likely than prior generations to date in the traditional context or to participate in organized social events. Even movies attract Internet Pioneers only once a month on average, with only 8 percent going out to the movies every week.

How much time do they spend daily outside of schoolon socializing, studying, sleeping and doing nothing at all? All in, with multi-tasking, they are active every minute of every day, spend six to seven hours in classes during the school year, and get nearly seven hours of sleep nightly, a total of more than 36 hours of activity each 24-hour day. College students are doing all this while consuming an average of six alcoholic drinks per week, according to Mathimortician.com.

Internet Pioneers: Time Spent in all Activities   
Source: Jack Myers/Ipsos-OTX Survey of 1,000 Internet Pioneers, August 2011  
(Includes % spending no time on each activity)   
    % Who Engage
  Hours:Minutes in This Activity
Online Socialization:   
Texting1:20 91%
On Facebook1:12 91%
On Other Social Media, Blogs, etc. :46 72%
Video Calling Using Skype or another service:27 54%
On Twitter:22 57%
TOTAL4 hours 7 minutes daily 
    
Personal Time with Family & Friends    
In-person with Friends1:43 94%
Spending "quality time" with my parents1:21 92%
Talking on the phone:39 89%
TOTAL3 hours 43 minutes daily 
    
Activities   
Homework and school activities (during school year)1:52 95%
Working at a paying job1:43 62%
Working on personal hobbies/passions1:00 89%
Console Gaming like Xbox, Wii :54 68%
Virtual Gaming–-Online & Apps :51 67%
Playing Sports, musical instruments, drama, dance, etc :49 71%
Writing on my own of any type :33 64%
TOTAL7 hours 42 minutes daily 
    
Media Time   
Watching TV content on TV, computer or phone1:25 89%
Browsing the web for interesting things1:18 94%
Listening to music on iTunes or any online app1:11 86%
Listening to music on the radio :47 82%
Watching YouTube :45 86%
Reading newspapers, magazines, books in print :36 77%
Listening to music on CDs/TV :34 57%
Reading newspapers, magazines books online or apps :31 72%
Total7 hours 7 minutes daily 
    
Other   
School 6:30  
Sleeping 6:58  
Spending time Awake but Alone Doing Nothing  :54 83%
Total14 hours 22 minutes daily 
    
ENGAGED AWAKE/NON-SCHOOL23 hours 33 minutes daily 
TOTAL TIME SPENT DAILY37 hours 05 minutes daily 
    

Remodeling Our Experiences Around the Social Web

"The web is being fundamentally rebuilt around people and the emergence of the social web."
Paul Adams, Social Networking Guru
Facebook

Adams' perspective can be applied to pretty much everypart of our lives. Fill in the blank in this sentence: "The world of [ families, relationships, news, entertainment, politics, arts, education, religion, television, transportation, science, medicine, cooking…] will fundamentally change because of the emergence of the social web." The list can go on ad infinitum.

Internet Pioneers will inevitably want to integrate the social web more actively into their day-to-day experiences.

The platform they are likely to turn to is one with which they grew up and understand: virtual worlds. For Internet Pioneers, virtual worlds mean programs and games like Sims, Neopets, Club Penguin, WeeWorld, Quepasa, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and other second homes where they spent large chunks of their childhood. They are attracted to and understand how to navigate a parallel world in which their avatar, a graphical representation of the user, is their agent and representative.

The first major virtual universe, Second Life, broke through at the end of the 20th century as the "first great city in a new virtual world." Its popularity grew from an adult eagerness to be a part of a new wave of online technology. Developed by Linden Labs, Second Life was launched in 2003 and offered free programs that enabled users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. Residents could explore the world, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another. As of 2011, Second Life still had about one million active users, but it never expanded beyond its original roots. Today it is used by several United States governmental departments such as NASA, by universities for educational and remote learning programs, and by businesses such as IBM and Cisco Systems for meetings and training.

While virtual worlds have taken a back seat to social networks, the two will inevitably merge. Immersive virtual worlds and games have been popular among Internet Pioneers since they were in their early childhood. Just as suburbs and shopping malls defined community in the second half of the 20th century, complex and absorbing cyber communities are on the horizon in the 21st century.

Personal avatars will move from network to network, from the television screen to the computer to the mobile device. Microsoft's Xbox, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation are already integrating avatars as an embedded part of their technologies. Xbox studies the physical characteristics of each player and develops representational avatars that look and act like their human counterparts. This functionality is in its infancy. Within the decade, Internet Pioneers will introduce avatars to their Facebook pages, social networks and gaming activities. Future avatars will be sophisticated, with a human voice and a physical presence, enhanced by motion and voice detection technology such as Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Kinect.

Representational avatars will take their places in virtual classrooms and at conference tables as the vision embodied in the original Second Life morphs to be more user-friendly. As avatars will be owned by their creators, they will travel from site to site, game to game, and app to app.

 

Summary

As developed as the Internet seems to us now, it is still largely undeveloped and unexplored. There is an endless quest ahead that will be exciting, challenging and fascinating.

Will Internet Pioneers be up to the task of applying the advances made possible by the Internet? Will they prove to belong to the most important generation of the 21st century? Will they be inventors and innovators? Are they likely to become an economic force, and will that force be positive or disruptive? Will their relationships and marriages be stable and healthy?

As with all generations, circumstances will have an impact on their opportunities and the realities they face. Yet, this group of young people is unlike any that has come before. We cannot assume that the life lessons and experiences of previous generations will be very relevant to Internet Pioneers or our understanding of them.

What does this generation expect from itself? And what can we expect from its members?

I know from my study that Internet Pioneers are social, engaged, active, immersed in media, gaming and online commerce. They have opinions on the leading social, political and economic issues of the day. Sexually, their attitudes, influences and values differ dramatically from earlier generations as well as from those who are just a few years older.

In the next several chapters, I look at Internet Pioneers' attitudes and formative influences on lifestyle choices from sexuality and women's rights to religion, politics and education. In subsequent chapters, I share the influences that have guided the development of Internet Pioneers and how the future is likely to evolve as they become dominant forces in society and culture for decades ahead.

Next: Hooking Up - Relationships, Sex and Porn

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