Group Hugs, 'The Guild Effect' & New Frontiers Of Privacy

Fresh off the Mashup last week, Anastasia and I both touched on some of the ways that forward-thinking brands and youth-targeted orgs have stepped up to respond to the unique demands of this generation through transparency, innovation and high-speed. While I’m tempted to fill another post with examples (and they’re sure to pop up in posts to come), I also wanted to share some of the poignant observations made about the tweens, teens and twentysomethings who are making these demands…

At last year’s Mashup we heard a lot about how group-oriented Gen Y was, as a result, to some degree, of growing up online. From work habits (“Collaboration Nation”) to tight familial bonds (helicopter parents), 2009 speakers pointed to various effects of a totally wired development. This year, Neil Howe revisited that discussion with a new angle asking us to invert the causality and consider instead how those core generational traits have had an impact on technology. For instance, how that characteristic teamwork has been incorporated into Gen Y’s approach to technology, effectively redirecting Gen X’s individualistic innovations (Personal Computers, e-commerce) towards the community (social networks, crowdsourced or “youthsourced” business models like Threadless). Or, as Neil succinctly put it so warm and fuzzily, technology for Millenials is like a giant “group hug.”

Slightly cheesy or no, over the two days of this year’s Mashup, I heard this spirit echoed in several different contexts. During a breakout session on Millennials in the Workplace, Neil’s colleague at LifeCourse Associates, Reena Nadler, reiterated how Gen Y employees want mobile and digital platforms to collaborate and connect during the workday and see anti-social media policies as an occupational roadblock. On a panel discussing teen/tween online community moderation, Anne Collier discussed the “guild effect” where invested, young users are moved to look out for each other and “keep the peace” on their virtual playgrounds. And then, of course, there was talk around the underlying love of the digital ties that bind this generation to Mom and Dad. A closeness that is apparently not just playing out in constant connectivity (i.e, phone calls/texts during the work day or Genevieve Bell’s various global examples) but in shared tastes as well—in his research, Neil Howe said parents of Millennials claimed an average of 30% song overlap with their kids’ iPods! All the more reason we’ll continue to see TV shows and games trending towards intergenerational viewing and playing and experiments such as co-marketed online communities like TogetherVille.

We were also reminded, as we’re so fond of reiterating here on Ypulse, that even with generally good intentions behind these new technologies and platforms, young Totally Wired trailblazers are still bound to face challenges rooted in both adolescent issues and general netiquette confusion around privacy and online reputation management.  The latter of which, parents may either not be entirely familiar with or are simultaneously struggling to understand themselves. As Genevieve Bell reminded us during her keynote, we are all navigating these new frontiers of privacy and the subsequent anxieties that increased exposure and disclosure (where you go, what you do, what you buy) raise around image and reputation. And according to the widely picked up Pew Report that came out on “Reputation Management and Social Media” it’s young adults who are most likely to be concerned with the implications of these digital trails.

Thankfully, to help teens and tweens address both developmental and technological challenges, we’re seeing more collaboration in the form of partnerships between online safety advocates and media mouthpieces. At the event we heard (and saw) how Disney and Common Sense Media have joined forces behind cyber safety spokescartoons and popular Disney XD characters “Phineas and Ferb.”  We also learned more about the multifaceted efforts (and many partners) behind MTV’s digital abuse prevention initiative  A Thin Line, which as Mashup attendees and Twitter followers heard exclusively from MTV’s Jason Rzepka, is actually taking that communal spirit one step further with a newly launched campaign to create a youth-authored digital “Bill of Rights”. For the Gen Y people, by the Gen Y people.. with a little extra support from older adults who care. Yup, pretty much sounds like the Millennial way.

P.S. If you haven’t yet, check out the full presentation from Jason Rzepka’s breakout “Inside MTV’s A THIN LINE Campaign” on the Events site.

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