There’s no question that Millennials are tech-savvy — they’re even occasionally called “Digital Natives” because technology and digital media have been a part of their lives since birth. But we’re seeing a little backlash despite all the benefits because technology is becoming something of a creepy stalker.
We noticed this recently in two commercials, one for cable company Optimum in which young parents talk about how their baby was on Facebook before she was even born and how her first steps will be broadcast on YouTube. In a separate commercial for a Samsung smart TV, a family hangs out in their living room using voice and gesture controls to operate their TV — at the end, the proud mother is wowed when her toddler learns to say “Hi TV,” speaking to the set to turn it on.
Both commercials cross the creepy line when technology is no longer about enabling our lives but begins to feel like a living, breathing member of the family. Millennials are noticing their own interactions are often filtered through a screen, even when they’re in the same room with their friends. The panelists at the Millennial Mega Mashup described a love/hate relationship with technology for that very reason. They even call their friends out when they see them staring at a screen instead of paying attention to the people they’re with, but the behavior persists.
We’re even seeing that technology is sometimes getting a bad rap in youth-focused media. In “The Hunger Games,” the Capitol uses technology to control the population as they’re forced to view the games, and the game designers use it to torment the tributes. We’ve noticed several forthcoming YA novels in which technology has taken over the world and characters are struggling to get back to nature. It’s even evident in TV shows — in “Pretty Little Liars,” for example, mobile technology is oppressive as the girls can’t escape the text messages they get from “A.”
In reality, Millennials wouldn’t choose a life without technology (we dare you to try to take a cell phone away from a teenager), but they’re conscious of the effect it’s having on them and their relationships. Marketers need to walk a fine line in presenting tech to tweens, teens, and 20-somethings — it should be shown as improving their communication and relationships, not dictating their lives.