Signs of a tech backlash by 'Millennials'

The more that marketers try to commercialize "Millennials" the more they are likely to start slipping away...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

There’s huge, sometimes obsessive interest in “Millennials” by the tech industry and marketers, but there are a lot of myths about how they behave online, and with each other. And there appears to be a tech backlash developing.

Melanie Shreffler, editor-in-chief of Ypulse, a youth market research firm, recently wrote a post titled: "It’s Possible There’s Too Much Technology In Our Lives, Even For Millennials."

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 backlash that Ms Shreffler describes seems very real given my anecdotal experiences with my kids and their friends.

When I look at my kids, just turned 18 year old daughter, and 24 year old son – and their friends, they aren’t the share-everything, technophiles that you might expect them to be, or at least popular notions of those generations expect them to be like.

They are extremely careful about what they share online, and they don’t jump on every consumer tech bandwagon there is, and they certainly do not believe everything they read online.

For example, my daughter chooses not to have a cell phone, she has a relatively new iMac and an iPod Touch, and is quite content. My son is very well equipped with tech stuff, new Macbook Pro, iPhone, etc, but doesn’t share much at all online and can even go days without his phone. Their friends seem similar in their attitudes to tech.

And they certainly don’t like the way commercial interests portray them in ads, or in the assumptions they make about them. And the more that marketers try to capture the essence of young people, in their seemingly clever ad campaigns, the more they will be pushed away.

That’s just the way it is and no amount of market research and study can change that because to them it means that the mainstream has caught up with their sub-cultures and that it’s time to move on.

Companies that try to be early in spotting and commercializing a youth sub-culture are engaged in a risky strategy. They might win some nods from peers, but in their target groups, they are far more likely to induce feelings of revulsion rather than “Like.”

Older generations, such as mine, often seem to be far more obsessed with tech gadgets than younger generations; and can be very clueless about what they share online.

It often seems as if it’s the older generations that are the wanna be “Millennials,” as portrayed in the popular mindset, while the real ones are more like what we should be: healthily blasé and selective about tech, and hyper-aware about their online activities and privacy.

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