Can Millenials Re­ally Cre­ate Change?

Caranissa Djat­miko dis­cusses why Mil­len­ni­als are more than just a group of smart­phone zom­bies and how tech­nol­ogy pro­vides the nec­es­sary tools to help guide this par­tic­u­lar gen­er­a­tion to foster change on a larger scale.

Indonesia Expat - - Contents - BY CARANISSA DJAT­MIKO

“Tech­nol­ogy is some­thing that I could not live with­out. Hav­ing grown up with tech­nol­ogy feels like magic to me. Reach­ing my friend in the US with just a touch of a but­ton in our pocket, we can ask Siri ev­ery­thing, even know­ing what’s hap­pen­ing right now in Spain; if that’s not magic what else? Tech­nol­ogy lets us do that kind of stuff, in­stantly,” ex­claims 22-year- old Mirsa Sadikin.

Mirsa is a re­cent col­lege grad­u­ate from a lo­cal pres­ti­gious univer­sity, the Institute of Tech­nol­ogy in Ban­dung. Through­out his col­lege years,

Mirsa dreamed of build­ing his own tech­nol­ogy com­pany. While that dream has yet to ma­te­ri­al­ize, Mirsa and a few of his friends de­cided to team up and cre­ate their own startup ven­ture. Like many of his fel­low Mil­len­ni­als, he be­lieves that tech­nol­ogy is a unique char­ac­ter­is­tic that sets them apart from their pre­de­ces­sors.

Mil­len­ni­als are known as the gen­er­a­tion that grew up in the dig­i­tal era, ul­ti­mately al­low­ing them to have more ac­cess to data and in­for­ma­tion and to ex­pe­ri­ence the world with a few presses of the thumb. In­stead of phys­i­cally trav­el­ling to for­eign coun­tries to ex­plore dif­fer­ent cul­tures, mil­len­ni­als could just turn to videos or images found on YouTube. In con­trast to tra­di­tional styles of re­search like lo­cat­ing spe­cific text­books in li­braries or hunt­ing down ex­perts in uni­ver­si­ties, Mil­len­ni­als need only to browse for rel­e­vant ref­er­ences on Google Scholar. Up­dates via so­cial me­dia plat­forms make find­ing and di­gest­ing news in­stan­ta­neous.

Hav­ing said that, this gen­er­a­tion should not be sin­gu­larly de­fined by tech­nol­ogy. Rather than find­ing their dig­i­tal rou­tines to be a triv­ial form of tech im­mer­sion, we should ac­knowl­edge them as part of a ma­jor cul­tural shift. Mil­len­ni­als are more than a group of smart­phone zom­bies and tech­nol­ogy pro­vides the tools that help and guide this par­tic­u­lar gen­er­a­tion to foster change on a larger scale.

Mil­len­ni­als, Tech­nol­ogy and Gen­er­a­tional Dif­fer­ences

Called ev­ery­thing from Gen­er­a­tion Y, the Next Great Gen­er­a­tion, to what Joel Stein sneer­ingly wrote in Time as the Me Me Me Gen­er­a­tion, Mil­len­ni­als are gen­er­ally iden­ti­fied by their com­ing of age at the turn of the new mil­len­nium. Co­in­ci­den­tally, the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion was well un­der­way dur­ing this pe­riod as Web 2.0 came in the mid 2000’s.

As such, aca­demics be­gan to study Mil­len­ni­als’ lives as en­tirely dif­fer­ent from those of their par­ents due in large part to tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments. In 2001, for ex­am­ple, Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tion con­sul­tant Marc Pren­sky in­vented the terms “dig­i­tal na­tives” and “dig­i­tal im­mi­grants” to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the young from the older gen­er­a­tion within the ed­u­ca­tion set­ting based on their use of tech­nol­ogy.

In this new era of dig­i­tal civ­i­liza­tion, Pren­sky high­lighted that stu­dents or “dig­i­tal na­tives” had a bet­ter grasp of tech­nol­ogy; and school teach­ers, the dig­i­tal im­mi­grants, were strug­gling to cope with that. “The ‘dig­i­tal im­mi­grant ac­cent’ can be seen in such things as turn­ing to the In­ter­net for in­for­ma­tion sec­ond rather than first, or in read­ing the man­ual for a pro­gram rather than as­sum­ing that the pro­gram it­self will teach us to use it. To­day’s older folk were ‘so­cial­ized’ dif­fer­ently from their kids, and are now in the process of learn­ing a new lan­guage,” Pren­sky said in his jour­nal Dig­i­tal Na­tives, Dig­i­tal Im­mi­grants.

In the years that fol­lowed, mul­ti­ple me­dia re­ports and books con­tin­ued to pro­mote the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion as not only a cru­cial as­pect of the youth cul­ture, but also a clear dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tor be­tween the young and the older gen­er­a­tion. Where Mil­len­ni­als or young peo­ple were of­ten seen as tech ad­dicts who couldn’t imag­ine a world with­out the In­ter­net; the older gen­er­a­tions were still get­ting used to this change.

But is the older gen­er­a­tion re­ally that in­ca­pable of keep­ing up with the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion? Well, not ex­actly. Re­cent stud­ies have found that Gen­er­a­tion

X in the United States, aged 35 to 49, is ac­tu­ally more ob­sessed with so­cial me­dia than Mil­len­ni­als – prov­ing that tech­nol­ogy may no longer be a valid dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tor be­tween Mil­len­ni­als and their pre­de­ces­sors. Most of these heavy users spend their time on Facebook via smart­phones, while watch­ing prime­time tele­vi­sion on Sun­days. The find­ing was re­vealed by Nielsen in its 2016 So­cial Me­dia Re­port.

“Sur­pris­ingly, the heavy so­cial me­dia user group isn’t Mil­len­ni­als. In fact, Gen­er­a­tion X (ages 35– 49) spends the most time on so­cial me­dia: al­most seven hours per week ver­sus Mil­len­ni­als, who come in sec­ond, spend­ing just over six hours per week,” Nielsen’s Pres­i­dent of So­cial Di­vi­sion Sean Casey said in the re­port’s fore­word. This even came as a sur­prise for Casey him­self who ini­tially ex­pected Mil­len­ni­als to be in com­mand of the so­cial me­dia world.

Mil­len­ni­als are known as the gen­er­a­tion that grew up in the dig­i­tal era, ul­ti­mately al­low­ing them to have more ac­cess to data and in­for­ma­tion and to ex­pe­ri­ence the world with a few presses of the thumb.”

As tech­nol­ogy be­comes in­creas­ingly more rel­e­vant with ev­ery gen­er­a­tion, re­searchers also be­gan study­ing its re­la­tion­ship with the gen­er­a­tion that comes after the Mil­len­ni­als. Results may in­di­cate that the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion should not only be as­so­ci­ated with Mil­len­ni­als as ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has its own ex­pe­ri­ences with tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment.

Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor and psy­chol­o­gist Jean M. Twenge re­cently wrote in The At­lantic that “post- Mil­len­ni­als” are, in fact, much worse than mil­len­ni­als when it comes to tech­nol­ogy saturation. And the one thing that she no­tices through­out her 25 years of re­search­ing gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences is that the ar­rival of smart­phones and so­cial me­dia have greatly af­fected ev­ery as­pect of life to the point that they are dam­ag­ing this gen­er­a­tion’s so­cial and men­tal state.

Twenge iden­ti­fies the gen­er­a­tion fol­low­ing the Mil­len­ni­als as that ex­ist after the mil­len­ni­als as ‘iGen’, born be­tween 1995 and 2012. Ac­cord­ing to the psy­chol­o­gist, Amer­i­can iGens to­day are less in­ter­ested in go­ing out and partying and pre­fer stay­ing at home, fully en­gaged with their phones and be­com­ing even more dis­con­nected than the gen­er­a­tion that came be­fore. “The Mil­len­ni­als grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever- present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night,” Twenge states in her ar­ti­cle Have Smart­phones De­stroyed A Gen­er­a­tion.

She adds: ”If you were go­ing to give ad­vice for a happy ado­les­cence based on this sur­vey, it would be straight­for­ward: Put down the phone, turn off the lap­top, and do some­thing – any­thing – that does not in­volve a screen.”

Mil­len­ni­als, Tech­nol­ogy and Pur­pose

But the ques­tion re­mains: How can we bet­ter un­der­stand the way young adults, in par­tic­u­lar, en­gage with tech­nol­ogy?

On the one hand, we must un­der­stand the rea­sons why the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion has trans­formed the way users en­gage with tech­nol­ogy. The emer­gence of new me­dia, for one, has al­lowed the au­di­ence to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in the means of pro­duc­tion, paving the way for most of the young users to re­ally get in­volved in vir­tual ac­tiv­i­ties. In­stead of sit­ting be­hind the screen, read­ing or wait­ing to hear the latest up­dates on some­thing, users now get to be in con­trol of the con­ver­sa­tions

(or at least have the chance to voice out their opin­ions through com­ments and clicks) and cre­ate their very own cul­tural ar­ti­facts. This is the rea­son why we are see­ing a gen­er­a­tion of blog­gers and vlog­gers. On the other hand, learn­ing how Mil­len­ni­als view the world is also im­por­tant in help­ing us bet­ter un­der­stand their ac­tions and ul­ti­mately the way to ap­ply tech­nol­ogy.

Their traits are eas­ily ob­served in our so­ci­ety. To il­lus­trate, young peo­ple in In­done­sia (and many other coun­tries around the world for that mat­ter) pre­fer jobs that of­fer flex­i­bil­ity as op­posed to those re­lated with the tra­di­tional cor­po­rate style. Within the lo­cal con­text, 83 per­cent of them also plan to open up their own busi­ness one day, based on a study con­ducted in 2015. And with the suc­cess of startup com­pa­nies like Go- Jek and Trav­eloka, there ap­pears to be a grow­ing trend among Mil­len­ni­als in In­done­sia to do the same.

The other day I was ask­ing Mirsa to ex­plain why he thinks this trend is a good sign for Mil­len­ni­als. “This means that young In­done­sian peo­ple are start­ing to re­al­ize that they’re ac­tu­ally ca­pa­ble of do­ing great things,” he said. He goes fur­ther to de­scribe his gen­er­a­tion: “I see that In­done­sian Mil­len­ni­als are mo­ti­vated and am­bi­tious peo­ple, liv­ing among them some­times make me feel small but also very grate­ful be­cause they push me to be a bet­ter per­son ev­ery sin­gle day.”

These are the kind of traits that even­tu­ally en­cour­age Mil­len­ni­als like Mirsa to de­velop a dis­tinct way of us­ing tech­nol­ogy. “Ev­ery­thing is now con­nected and there are a lot of tools out there that we can use. I think that know­ing how to har­ness them to cre­ate some­thing use­ful and beau­ti­ful is some­thing that we should try. In my case, I want to travel cheaply, so I de­cided to learn how to cre­ate some­thing with ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy, ask my friend to help me, and with the help of tech­nol­ogy, we cre­ated noom­pang.com.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Mirsa’s take on tech­nol­ogy above demon­strates a real el­e­ment of pur­pose in his use of tech­nol­ogy, which is to travel cheaply. His de­ci­sion to set up a travel-based web­site is driven by his own mo­ti­va­tion to solve a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem that he used to face dur­ing his col­lege days. At that time, trav­el­ling from Jakarta to Ban­dung cost him too much and there were not that many travel op­tions for him to reach his des­ti­na­tion. By cre­at­ing a plat­form that gives pas­sen­gers and driv­ers the op­por­tu­nity to share their rides, Mirsa was able to re­solve his and likely many other peo­ple’s is­sues with a few clicks of a but­ton.

Sur­pris­ingly, the heavy so­cial me­dia user group isn’t Mil­len­ni­als. In fact, Gen­er­a­tion X (ages 35– 49) spends the most time on so­cial me­dia: al­most seven hours per week ver­sus Mil­len­ni­als, who come in sec­ond, spend­ing just over six hours per week.”

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