By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
While Instagram feeds have been infiltrated by parents and grandparents, the world of Snapchat is still largely Millennial territory. Gen Xers and Boomers frequently ask us to decode Snapchat – why is it so popular? What does it entail beyond a constant barrage of selfies?
First, Snapchat is much more than “just another app.” It lives in a unique sweet-spot for Millennials, providing a new level of intimacy while at the same time preserving a certain distance. The easiest way to think about it is falling somewhere between “real life conversation” and everyday social media feeds, which has interesting implications as to how Millennials are changing the way they communicate today.
We’ll explain more, but first, a tutorial:
Snapchat 101 – the basic mechanics: You snap a photo or short video, send it to your friend(s) and once they’ve opened, it dissolves within a few seconds… never to be seen again. You can also easily subvert the system with your phone’s “screen grab” function, and hold onto friends’ images forever (or at least until you lose your phone).
The new “Stories” feature allows you to create a public, daily feed of your activities, with photos/videos lasting a full 24 hours for friends to peruse. Some users are in love with it, some are already annoyed. As Hayley, 19 notes, “‘My Stories’ has become kind of annoying, like Facebook, where people post everything like ‘I just went to the nail salon.’” Some also feel this function is more polished and planned than regular Snapchat, with people “trying too hard to show they are having fun at a party.”
So what do people Snapchat?
Snapchats tend to be selfies (usually awkward) or photos of “random” things accompanied by equally random captions. One teen drew a face on a photo of an orange, and sent it along with the caption, “You are a good person.” A few teens talked about photos of themselves collapsed over homework with pained captions. Caitlin, 22, snuck a photo of a guy with a puggle in his man-purse for her puggle-loving sister. And if you are in the heat of a Snapchat convo and can’t think of a good image to accompany what you need to say, you simply take a photo of your thigh or bedroom wall. Artistic, well-thought-out photos are left to Instagram, where content is more “official.”
- Snapchat your crush first, text later. A group Snapchat is often an ice-breaker to one-on-one Snapchats, which are icebreakers to texting (where more “real” conversation happens). “It’s kind-of weird to text someone random, but you can Snapchat someone random and it’s seen as friendly,” Ellen, 19, explained.
- Don’t overdo selfies to people who aren’t your best friends.
- Selfies are best if they are raw, funny and awkward … unless to your crush. Millennials tell us about adjusting lighting, hair and makeup. Kayla, 17, says she used to spend eight minutes getting ready for a Snapchat to her now-boyfriend.
- Don’t send too many Snaps in a day, especially to a crush. You’ll look stalkerish. One panelist capped it at “5 per day.”
- Be careful when you open videos in public. You have no idea what they contain.
- Don’t open a Snapchat immediately – again, this depends on the desired relationship you are looking to cultivate. N/A if it’s your best friend. Definitely important if it’s your crush.
- Snapchat can offer a great opp to get status updates on exes, crushes and exes’ crushes. One college student notes, “I see my exes watching ‘My Story,’ which creeps me out, but is also flattering.”
- If you are out with other friends and Snapchatting, make sure not to send to an uninvited friend.
Why is it working?
Many reasons — the most interesting is that it’s actually a very personal form of communication. Millennials are looking for more intimate, “face-to-face” interaction in a world that’s increasingly virtual. The intimate, impromptu selfies make you “feel like you are just talking to someone.” But, Millennials also tell us that it simultaneously provides a bit of welcomed distance.
Snapchat also offers authentic, unpolished glimpses into someone’s life (or at least the impression of this… as noted above, sometimes shots are staged).
It lets you be lazy. You don’t have to think of something substantive to say or consider how it’s going to be interpreted. Snapchat helps you understand tonality much quicker than texting. A teen said “A ‘hey’ over text can be really loaded, but if you see it over Snapchat with a photo you can tell that it’s a friendly ‘hey.’”
And, it can even be highly resourceful. Sonali, 19, says, “Two of my friends who live on opposite sides of the country planned an entire vacation to Canada together solely through Snapchat!”
With all of the above, it’s no wonder that Gen Xers and Boomers are trying to understand what SnapChat is and why it’s so popular. The easiest way to sum it up – it’s personal, but not too personal. Welcome to the future of communication.
By Stephanie Monohan
When people think of Fandoms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fandom) in the Young Adult Fiction world, escapist, supernatural or fantastic stories like The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent come to mind. But in the seemingly endless ocean of supernatural romances and tales of dystopian futures exists an enclave of books that explore day-to-day tragedies and real life coming-of-age as opposed to saving the world and eternal undead love. And vibrant fandoms are growing around these tragically real, sometimes existentialist books.
These touching, relatable stories about young love, loneliness, and even death are striking a chord with young readers (and many adults as well) who are looking for a bit more honesty in their fiction, but there’s something about the authors as well. Novelists like John Green, who penned Looking For Alaska and the YA sensation The Fault In Our Stars (currently being adapted into a feature-length film), and Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park and the more recent Fangirl, have developed rabid fan followings due to their openness and communication with their readers, as well as their own personal histories within fandom communities.
While the glut of YA fiction reminiscent of the massive Twilight and Hunger Games franchises often feels overwhelming, there are still many teens and young adults willing to let their hearts break a little for this engrossing fiction. YA readers seem hungry for stories that speak directly to their experiences and don’t sugar-coat the realities of not only growing up, but being alive.
Much of that has to do with these authors’ understanding of fan communities and their own unique engagement with their fans. John Green, for instance, regularly updates his hugely popular video blog series vlogBrothers while also taking time to interact with his fans on his personal Tumblr page, reblogging them and offering long, thought-out responses to their questions. Rainbow Rowell incorporated her own experiences with fandom into her latest novel Fangirl, which follows a girl who turns to online fandom to cope with her real-life problems, a journey that many people who become part of fandoms may recognize.
This kind of connection is very important to young fans in general. The Millennials we talk to frequently emphasize the importance of celebrity/creator transparency and relatability. They have come to not only appreciate zero-distancing, but to expect it. They enjoy seeing not just the behind-the-scenes, but into the lives of the people creating their favorite pop culture. Plus, when it comes to books about serious subjects, or even just about growing up, it feels like the author is imparting advice in a personal way. As one of our panelists put it, “Now famous people can be your best friend.” (Julian, 23) Overall, this kind of closeness as well as the honest, yet humorous wisdom found in these stories is resonating with young readers and possibly jumpstarting a refreshing trend in young adult fiction.
By Sarah McDowell
I saw this outside The Counting Room, a popular bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The bar encouraged its patrons to step away from their social feeds and connect with each other on a more personal level instead.
By Alison Hillhouse
Millennials are the most talked about generation in history – the web is overflowing with articles and studies on Millennial underemployment, Millennial tech addiction and the intricacies of dealing with Millennials in the workplace. There’s so much conversation that we now see listicles and infographs about how everyone can’t stop talking about Millennials, like CNN’s “Can we stop worrying about Millennials yet?”
That’s why we’ve dedicated this post to letting Millennials speak for themselves, about themselves. MTV Insights partnered with Survey.com to get 250 18-24 year olds across the country to text us a picture + description that reflects the hashtag: #weliveinagenerationthat.
And here are some of our favorites…
By Matt Cohen, MTV Insights
When it comes to their love lives, we have found that Millennials often “run the bases backwards” — meaning that sex comes first, and relationships come second (if at all.) (See our previous post, “Love Stuck: The Meandering Path from Hook-Up to FBO”) This same pattern seems to apply among Gay Millennials – but with one important twist: For Gay Millennials, it appears that hook-ups very often lead to new friendships.
While straight Millennials tell us stories of casual hook-ups who tend to go their separate ways after failing to make the transition from hook-up to relationship, we hear from Gay Millennials that hooking up often serves as a casual opener to starting a new friendship.
Jacob, 22, explains “Almost every single gay guy that I know goes through the exact same pattern: You meet someone you think is cute, you hook up with him, and if it doesn’t turn into romance, you become friends.”
“All of my friends and I hooked up with each other and then became best friends,” says Domenic, 19, who told us that hooking up with gay classmates served as a social ice-breaker of sorts during his freshman orientation week at college. “When I got accepted to college, I joined the LGBT club for my school on Facebook…The first week of school we all slept with each other, and then we all became friends.”
Many of our panelists talk about how they have ended up with particularly “incestuous” social circles as a result of this behavior — meaning that many of their friends have dated or hooked up with each other in various combinations. Because gay communities are typically small (particularly within the college bubble) it’s often difficult to avoid an ex or former hook-up buddy. As a result, Gay Millennials seem to be making the best of a potentially awkward situation by viewing former hook-ups as potential new friends.
Jacob, 22, recalls “I was at a birthday party with a friend recently. We were looking around the room, and we realized that either one of us had hooked up with almost everyone who was there and had become friends with them… It’s almost universal among everyone I know.”
Although their social circles may be fraught with complicated overlapping connections, Gay Millennials fortunately have a large pool to draw from when it comes to looking for new potential friends or romantic partners. Whereas previous generations of gay youth congregated around local gay clubs or bars in order meet new people, many Gay Millennials now carry the proverbial gay bar with them in their pockets. Thanks to the advent of digital tools like Grindr – the massively popular gay geo-location app which helps you find potential hook-ups in your vicinity – Gay Millennials can easily tap into a fresh network of romantic or platonic possibilities.
For those who aren’t using hook-up apps like Grindr, however, even a tool as simple as Facebook can help expand the gay social circle. Many of the Gay Millennials we spoke to mentioned searching their Facebook networks when they first arrived at college in order to identify other gay classmates on-campus. (With the recent introduction of Facebook’s Graph Search, this type of search is now easier than ever before.) And even if you’re not looking for new gay friends, chances are they’ll find you as Steven, 22, explains “If you’re friends with any gay person on Facebook and you write on their wall, like 80 people will friend-request you.”
This is the third in a series of posts on Gay Millennials, in which we share our findings on the unique characteristics and experiences of this generation’s gay youth. Check out our previous posts in this series:
By Stephanie Monohan
It is no secret that geek culture has gone mainstream. Millennials, especially those on the younger end of the generation, have grown up learning that not only is it acceptable to have obscure, niche, or “nerdy” interests; those things can actually make you really cool.
We’ve also been seeing a lot of creativity surrounding geek culture and fandom, with young fans expressing their love for beloved shows, movies, comics, etc. and getting lots of feedback. One can find Millennials sharing this blend of fandom and maker culture on sites like Tumblr, but some fans have taken their fandom creations to the next level by creating businesses around their fandom self-branding.
Ant Roman of Nerdache Cakes (photo from Seventeen Magazine)
Ant Roman, 20-year-old cake decorator and owner of Nerdache Cakes, is one such fan. In a recent piece from Seventeen Magazine, we read about this self-proclaimed fan of “Superheroes, British Detectives, Doctors who travel in the depths of Space and Elementary School Cartoons.” She tells MTV Insights that she was a super-fan before she started baking: “I was born with nerd passion. Comic books were a huge love of mine. Star Wars was big when I was a kid, along with Sailor Moon. Fighting evil in cute outfits was all I have ever wanted to do.”
As a Millennial with a natural bent towards crowd-sourcing, she accepts a weekly baking challenge from one of her online followers and attempts to recreate her favorite characters in sweet form. She says, “Every week it’s Star Wars cupcakes, TARDIS cookies, and classic comic cupcakes. I won’t look twice at a purse cake – not nerdy enough for me! It that purse has a Batarang and a lipstick gun, however, that’s a different story.”
Teen Wolf cake
Fans contribute to and interact with their favorite fandoms in a variety of creative ways, most frequently through artwork, fan fiction, videos, music, etc. Nerdache Cakes is such an interesting project because it is not simply a baking business with a twist, but also a creative fandom outlet for Roman: “We all have a way that we contribute to fandom. I guess cake is mine! It really does make you feel like you are a part of something larger, with people who really appreciate your work.”
Check out Ant Roman’s work at www.nerdachecakes.com and follow her on Twitter at @nerdachecakes
By Berj Kazanjian, MTV
Costumed Hunger Games fans at midnight premiere
Photo via Associated Press/Wire Images
With the Millennial generation, we’re seeing a dramatic shift in the consumption of movie entertainment to a more self-expressive, communal experience. It’s no longer unusual for friends to plan themed outfits for a midnight showing of the Hunger Games or reenact scenes on YouTube the following day. MTV Insights took a deep dive into the Millennial movie-going experience to understand where movies fit into the Millennial lifestyle.
We found that, for a generation that defines itself by content consumed, “liked”, or shared, movies offer Millennials a common language through which they can express their identities and their own experiences. The overarching theme was the communal and completely absorbed experience:
•A place where they can UNPLUG TO RECONNECT : Movies have become one of the final frontiers in which Millennials can disconnect and be focused, but still be entertained. Movies offer the opportunity to be totally absorbed in one thing while also feeling a connection to fellow moviegoers. 79% of Millennials agree that, “going to the movies is a great way to escape from my busy life” and 64% attend movies as a chance to “break away” from regular life.
•45% of Millennials agree that midnight screenings are “THE NEW ROCK CONCERT”: 47% of Millennials have gone to a midnight screening. Midnight screenings offer the Millennial movie-goer a firsthand connection to a communal environment – an experience of a common thread among strangers both online but more importantly, offline.
Photo courtesy of Business Insider
• RISE OF FANDOMS is another example of the creation of a community around a movie. We are seeing huge increases in movie clubs on Meetup and Facebook (over 1 million people on Meetup alone). These clubs have further enhanced the movie going experience by assisting in the creation of fan communities who share a common interest in movie type, genre, and series. These groups thrive off of the experience of opening weekend and midnight screenings. 58% of Millennials don’t mind being seen as a fanatic for their favorite star or movie.
Photo via The Examiner
The flip side of being included is being excluded. It’s time to talk about SPOILERS and MOVIE FOMO. Social media and other factors in the online world can be extremely helpful for Millennials who are trying to decide which movies to see in the theater. But the internet is also a source of anxiety – filled with potential spoilers.
Almost 7 out of 10 moviegoers planning to post to social media after seeing a really good or really bad movie. While this is good for generating buzz, it further enhances the Millennial’s fear of missing out and anxiety about an accidentally encountered spoiler. It also increases the desire to be the first to see a movie and the first post among friends. 53% of Millennials feel that, “it is important to see a movie if everyone is talking about it” and 64% agree that it’s “important to be able to say I saw it first (premiere showing moviegoers)”. It’s just as important for Millennials to not feel left out of a shared experience as it is for them to be a part of the shared experience.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Millennials & Movie Going” …
MTV recently conducted a meta-study on the younger end of the Millennial demographic to understand how teens today are different than their 20-something counterparts. Among many of the findings in ” The New Millennials Will Keep Calm and Carry On ,” MTV uncovered how teens across the US are adopting “maker” culture (once attributed to niche corners of Brooklyn and Silver Lake) … in spite of the stereotype that all they do is plug into laptops and iPhones.
A bit of background: Young Millennials (aged 13-17 in 2013) have always been conscious of the chaotic, hyper-competitive world that has slowly become a reality for the rest of us over time.
They know nothing other than an economic downturn, and are aware from a young age that the world is a hyper-competitive place – from college admissions to a tight job market. Bombarded in social media by images of Boston Bombings, Sandy Hook School, tornados and hurricanes, they’ve been raised in an “always-on” world where they are tapped into multiple feeds 24/7 and perpetually responsible for maintaining their online personal presence. To a Boomer or even Xer, this kind of “coming-of-age” sounds downright exhausting.
But this generation of youth is surprisingly adapting just fine. They’ve developed their own coping mechanisms to self-soothe, de-stress and de-stimulate. In MTV’s research, one of the coping mechanisms we observed is that teens today are unexpectedly choosing to take a break from “multi-tasking” and instead “mono-task,” meaning focus on immersive hands-on activities, like baking, sewing or crafting.
In fact, 57% like to take a break from technology to make things with their hands… and 82% agree “when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I like to stop and just do one thing at a time.” As Julia, 17 puts it “When I craft I’m in the zone, it really soothes me.”
But this doesn’t mean they completely abandon technology in the before and after moments that bookend their making experiences.
They study up in an endless library of DIY YouTube videos, learning how to hand craft books or sew custom iPad cases. They delve deep into Reddit forums to find the perfect way to brown butter with sea salt for chocolate chip cookies, as explained to us by 17-year-old baker Angela, author of Nagel’s Bagels. They watch hours of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Netflix to understand the intricate dynamics of vampire stake making, as told to us by 13-year old Alice who whittles various types of stakes in her spare time.
And the important finishing touch? An Instagram photo of their creation to show the world the 7-layer cake that took 2 hours to bake and 5 minutes to eat. With social media, crafts & baked goods are granted a “second life” and serve an important function in helping hone one’s personal self-brand. We see teens today even more adept at developing their unique persona from a young age, realizing both the need to stand out to get social media likes and, moreover, showcase a unique side to get noticed in a highly competitive college admission process.
What we’re beginning to see is an emergence of “tech homesteaders,” who are nearly perpetually plugged in but carving out spaces to detach and return to the roots of humanity and do things by hand. The pickling, cheese-making and crafting movement we’ve seen in niche urban pockets seems to be finding appeal with these young teens across the country, with 8 in 10 agreeing “sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things.”
This piece was originally published on Media Biz Bloggers
By Jillian Curran, MTV Insights
We always pay attention when Millennials push a boundary, so most recently we’ve been looking at the generation’s relationship to diet and exercise regimes. Veganism, Juice Cleanses, and Gluten Free diets (used specifically for weight loss) are gaining momentum on college campuses; many girls are even starting their own blogs/Tumblrs to promote and show off their healthy lifestyle.
We’ve also seen a trend in bodybuilding and lifting among girls, as one panelist told us, “There are actually some girls on my Facebook who have taken up bodybuilding and post picture updates of their bulging muscles regularly. And one is kind of a girly girl, so I didn’t expect that. They’re not just wanting toned muscles, but muscles bigger than most guys have. The app “Watch Me Change My Weight (a time-lapse video of your fitness progress) is also popular. “ Many blogs and tumblrs are dedicated to this trend under the tag #fitspo, #fitspiration, and #Fitblr, curating workouts, diets and inspirational messages for motivation.
Running a half marathon or participating in a triathlon is “NBD”, “everyone does them” (and “humblebrags” about their workouts on Facebook). People are even entering out of-the-box competitions like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race that showcase crawling under barbed wire, jumping in freezing cold pools of water and running through fire.
We cant tell yet if it’s perfectionism, one-up-manship, sensation-seeking or some new dynamic driving this trend, but we’ll keep watching it closely and making mental notes while taking our Soul Cycle classes!
To paraphrase Warhol, everyone seems to be getting their 15 minutes of “Tumblr Fame.” The “Tumblr Famous,” those who gather a serious following and through this highly platform-specific notoriety, are multiplying.
TF is an interesting new development in the story of social media’s ability to create ‘distributed fame.’ What’s quite intriguing here is how hard it is to put your finger on what exactly is driving the popularity of any individual TF. It’s not “famous for nothing,” as some media commentators have claimed. Their followers clearly find something captivating about them. But what exactly is that elusive ‘x factor’ that’s so hooky with the follower fans?
It seems that the TFs are operating as “brand-lettes”…micro-brands broadcasting in a very specific, distinctive, authentic “micro voice,” and on a very particular “dog whistle” frequency: inaudible to many, a clarion call to some. This micro-branding is often playing with one or more quite sophisticated principles of good mass communication. For example…
Visual voice: Many popular bloggers can be identified by the visual vibe of their page or personal style. Molly Soda, for example, has fans who emulate her very particular look.
Editorial voice: Some popular Tumblr users include info and photos from their actual lives, but many don’t. “Deep” use of the reblogging function of Tumblr Tumblr to curate with a very particular viewpoint. This curatorial, filtered view appears to creating a kind of intimacy with the follower that that is especially compelling.
Relatable voice: Marketers have struggled for decades to create the illusion of relatable. So-called “Slice of life” advertising was coined for just this reason. “Hey, recognize this scene? Yes, it’s your life. Well here’s how this product makes it better…” By screen grabbing the stuff of their everyday lives and making a channel of it, TFs are creating complete authentic slices of life that invite the follower in to say “I know you, I recognize myself (or see my aspirational self) there, we are ‘friends’….”
Some of the “Tumblr Famous” are drawing in as many fans as mainstream celebrities. Clearly we are witnessing another chapter in the flattening of the field between the famous and the fan. One the one hand the distance between the famous and the fan is collapsing as we have discussed before (link to zero distance), and on the other the tools and techniques of fame are now in the hands of everyone, fueled by powerful platforms to bring that to full expression.