By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Twitter is on trend with Millennials, particularly teenagers who are looking for a more coded, parent-free and conversational platform to chat & share pics.
Time spent on Twitter has climbed significantly in the past year amongst young Millennials aged 12-24: total minutes spent Tweeting on a PC/Mac are up +94% (Oct to Oct) and up 62% on mobile (ages 18-24; both app+mobile site).
Of course, Facebook is still the elephant in the room, or the mammoth we should say. Its 34.3M 12-24 year-old users dwarf Twitters’ 12.4M (on Mac/PC, Oct.) But the fact that Twitter is picking up steam is something to explore further. MTV Insights hears more & more teens across the country getting excited about Twitter, and here are a few of its advantages…
The age-old teen cry “get out of my room” has now translated to social media. While Millennials often have more peer-like relationships with parents, this doesn’t mean that they want parents involved in their online social life. A group of high school boys from Cincinnati revealed to us: “the good thing about Twitter is parents aren’t on it.”
The 144-character-limit to Tweets naturally gives rise to a more coded language amongst teens; one that not only parents have difficulty interpreting, but also friends who aren’t in on the joke/storyline. Teens frequently “subtweet,” or post coded/vague messages that only the right receiver will be able to interpret (messages that often give rise to intense speculation amongst classmates interested in that night’s drama…)
A subtweet might involve the phrase #oomf (one of my followers) which gives someone the opp to vaguely direct the tweet, e.g. “I like that #oomf said she was going to sleep but is still Tweeting.”
Teens love that Twitter gives them permission to share more “train-of-thought” commentary. Alise, a 17-year old from Chesapeake, VA says “I think Twitter is better because it’s updated in real time. I think Twitter is more of a “train of thought” site – people pretty much post anything they want from jokes to how they feel to what they did today.”
Alondra, a junior from Redford, MI explains “Twitter’s become very popular in my school. While on Twitter, they Tweet all day. You can mention things you’re doing every second of the day without posting it on Facebook and seeming annoying.”
Teens pretty much feel pressured to Facebook-friend their entire school… but Twitter is generally a more socially acceptable environment to be selective. Andy, a 16-year-old female from New Jersey explains: “Twitter is a good way to separate my acquaintances from my best friends. On Facebook, I have a bunch of people, most of which I don’t even talk to. On Twitter, I have people that I can’t go a day without talking to.”
While a lot of Twitter is all about interacting with friends, it’s equally as entertaining to follow celebs, news, sports and parody accounts. So to conclude, we’ll end with a few handles that our @MTVInsight teen panelists recommend:
· Bad Luck Brian: @UnluckyBrian
· Funny Facts: @FunnyFacts
· Aziz Ansari: @azizansari
· Bleacher Report: @BleacherReport
*Data source: ComScore
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Drake wannabees, Japan-o-philes and Asian Gangsters certainly aren’t cliques you would’ve found in high school 20 years ago. And a “nerd” might have been more monolithically caricatured as Screech from Saved by the Bell… instead of today’s breed of nerds that run the gamut from anime players to orch dorks to even “popular nerds.”
While cliques are a timeless high school institution, MTV Insights has found that cliques have morphed to reflect the increasingly diverse, unique and fluid nature of the Millennial generation. We had high schoolers in our nationwide MTV Creative Lab (hosted by Ypulse) diagram their high school cliques. And here’s what we saw….
While some of the clique infrastructure of yesteryear continues to hold true—there are still groupings like “alternative” “nerds” and “popular”—these overarching classifications have splintered into micro-cliques that highlight the unique personas of today’s youth.
At one New Jersey high school, “alt kids” are fragmented into hipsters (“non-conformists”), emo-scene (“depressed hipsters”) and “alts-in-training” (“still deciding which sub clique to belong to”). Honors kids are known for their different academic inclinations, including “nouveau honors” who have just entered the honors scene and are figuring out how to sub-specialize.
Clique diagrammers were also adamant that there were many micro-cliques of nerds, and not surprisingly, 81% of Millennials agree “there are different types of nerds – weird nerds and cool nerds.”
A map of “50 shades of nerd”:
Another high-schooler segmented out her school by where groups sat at lunch hour. She pointed out the nuances in tech types including programmers, gamers and techies… and even fine-sliced “band nerds” and “orch dorks” as distinct cliques (both who lunch together in the Fine Arts Hallway.)
Although cliques have fragmented and specialized, there’s a new fluidity to cliques – 6 in 10 Millennials agree “At my school, it wouldn’t be uncommon for an athlete and a nerd to be friends.” Millennials told stories of cliques coming together for creative collaborations, like “techies” and “rockers” fixing a guitar pedal together.
It’s also desirable to be connected to multiple cliques for diversification and inspiration – 7 in 10 Millennials identify with being a “floater.” DJs are the ultimate “cross-cliquers,” according to many… particularly given that EDM is such a universally appealing music, bringing together jocks, hipsters and “scene” kids.
But it’s not to say high school is one big happy family – clique clashes occur, such as those between “plastic cheerleaders” and “scene girls who side shave their hair.” This elaborate diagram of guy cliques shows both inter-clique fluidity and clashes:
No longer are high schoolers left with just hallway gossip and school functions to get a glimpse into the lives of other cliques – social media offers a 24/7 voyeuristic view into the inner-workings of every clique.
Cliques have an unofficial code of FB posting… of which others are hyper-aware. The artsy kids share poetic thoughts and photos of themselves looking distant and aloof. Popular girls paint an image of a perpetual party, including “highly edited photos that poorly conceal how intoxicated they were” and “photos of themselves in yoga pants plastered to butt, super short shorts.”
And imagine what it’s like now that The Stoners have iPhone access?! Tech has given birth to #highdea and #stonerproblems… and helped spurn the virality of YouTube stoner sensation - Cows & Cows & Cows. Check it out… you’ll be mesmerized for what seems like hours.
And as for the sub-species of “Drake Wannabees” … “he tries to be sensitive and tough, fails at both and is completely self-involved, annoyingly uses ‘YOLO’ and ‘Swag’ any chance he gets.”
More clique maps:
By Alison Hillhouse
I have to confess… I was totally surprised by how this generation rallied around the Olympics. Research I’d done a few years ago indicated young people felt rather lackluster about the Olympics. But after a decade of waning interest in Athens and Beijing, we saw Millennial frenzy around London 2012.
What’s going on here? MTV did some research to dig in more. Of course Millennials were drawn to the Olympics for timeless reasons – emotional stories, the world uniting, the awe of human possibility (particularly with Usain Bolt, a modern day superhero with gold wings on his feet and a signature “lightening move.”) But peeling back the layers, we uncovered some driving forces that galvanized this generation around the Olympics like never before:
Antidote to Recession: The Olympics have always inspired us to persevere in the face of adversity, and this year, they particularly struck a chord with coming-of-age, job-challenged Millennials wading through tough economic times. Nicole, 21, noted, “I’ve been having a tough time and Olympics showed me with perseverance I can get through this time.”
Meme-ing for medals: This was the first Olympics with meme culture in full force – and “unimpressed McKayla Maroney and Ryan Lochte “Hey Girl” memes provided constant reminders to tune in. As Liz, 19 says, “I wouldn’t have watched half the games I did had I not hear about them through social media.” Laura, 17, described favorite Olympic moments as a combination of actual events and meme-able outtakes: “My favorites were Gabby Douglas’ gold, Phelps 20 medals, watching Aly Raisman’s parents and the Aly Raisman meme.” In fact, 6 in 10 Millennials agree: The best part of the Olympics was the funny things people passed around online.”
My own private Lochte: While backstories are nothing new to the Olympics, we’re closer to athletes than ever thanks to Twitter & Instagram. Millennials loved how they could tweet to athletes and see “athletes Tweeting to each other” (“it’s as if I was in London!” says Liz, 19.) Behind-the-scenes views like Jordyn Weiber’s TwitPic of the Fab5 riding the double decker bus and posts on the excessive condom usage at Olympic Village were Gen Y favorites.
The Gold for Abs – A generation who’s creating Fitspo Pinterest pages of toned bodies and views bikini-clad celebs in US Weekly as a reference for “body perfection” was obsessed with the hot bodies of Olympians… so naturally it became trendy to rave about swimmers abs on your Facebook page and post “I wanna have Ryan Lochte’s babies.” And it wasn’t just 15 year old girls - in our youth obsessed country, both moms and the media were in a frenzy over “cute boys in Speedos.” (just like they all rally around boy bands like One Direction)
London Calling: A country obsessed with celeb-royalty, Prince William & Kate and all things British was eager to see London as a backdrop - Nearly 7 in 10 Millennials said that London as a host city made them more excited for the Olympics.
As Millennials come of age, the spirit of the games fits perfect with their mentality of positivity, connectedness and perseverance… and the celebrification of Olympians fits in perfect with our ever increasing obsession with fame.
By Alison Hillhouse
At MTV, we’ve been fascinated by how the humble hashtag has become an icon of Millennial communication – not just on Twitter, but also in texts, Facebook posts and in regular conversation.
Its a kind of “Swiss Army Knife” of new age punctuation, and depending on context, can serve a whole functions… and helps packs more punch into your 144 characters.
We asked our interns Jaclyn Rosen (University of Florida) & Jessica Cohen (Washington University) to delve into the complex world of hashtagging and help us to decode and “categorize” their generations’ uses of this zeitgesit keystroke. Here’s their #RosettaStone:
> Instant punchline: To amplify an otherwise ordinary statement into a joke (and therefore into social currency)
Example: Pin stripes, top hat, gloves and a cane? Well shit… #prom #yolo #herdinghoeslikesheep
Example: A homeless man told me I was “pretty hot for a white girl” #IsThatACompliment?
> The pre-emptive excuse: To undercut our arrogance when we want to complain a little about our #firstworldproblems, or to be brutally honest.
Example: “I couldn’t even tell ya the price of gas right now. I just buy it. Don’t even look #sorryimnotsorry”
Example: Harry’s tattooed arm looks like a small child doodled on him #SorryNotSorry Why am I so in love with that loser?
> The veiled confession (or the bargain therapy session): To reveal our innermost thoughts to the world. “Tweet to me” is the new “talk to me”.
Example: #10WorstFeelings Going to bed with a broken heart.
> The digital dog whistle: To connect with friends (& strangers) who share similar interests and are on the same special wavelength .
Example: #WhatMostWomenWant To eat without getting fat
Example: Stiles from #TeenWolf is the best freakin character… ever.
When the archeologists of the future dig down to understand the lives of ancient civilizations, they will no doubt have a field day with this one. Turning those 2 sets of parrallel lines in their muddy fingers they’ll perhaps wonder “how did something that meant ‘number’ or was called ‘the pound sign’ become this….?”
- Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
A generation that’s grown up on a diet of Angry Birds and Call of Duty views life as a multi-level, multi-player game – and the workplace is no exception. No longer do young employees view the career ladder as a rigidly defined series of steps to get to the top. Millennials aren’t going to spend 40 years in the same job, waiting for someone else to tell them they’ve advanced to the next level. A 22-year-old who’s invested years of prep-work in school, extra-curriculars and internships (not to mention has amassed massive student loans) is ready to put his training to good use and is eager to plot out the next move in the complex game we call “work.”
Millennials are taking control of their own destiny, looking for trapdoors and ways to switch roles within a company or start something on their own to “level up” faster. In fact, MTV’s “No Collar Workers” study shows that 74% agree “if the workplace were like a game, I know how to “level-up” faster than others,” (versus 59% of Boomers). It’s not that Millennials don’t value the experience of elders, it’s just that they deeply desire to be successful and believe if they put in effort it’s possible to find a speedier way to progress.One pathway to success might be job switching – 1 in 2 believe “switching jobs helps you climb the corporate ladder faster” (versus 37% of Boomers.)
The start-up world also gives Millennials the opportunity to skip several levels – MTV recently met with Millennial-founded company “Uncharted Play,” (http://www.unchartedplay.com/) which has multiple VPs and a CEO under the age of 25. They explained that start-ups are inherently sailing unchartered waters… so why not “advance to go” and start out as a VP?
This game-like, warp-speed mentality also plays into how Millennials go about working, with44% “looking for loopholes to get the job done.” (versus 24% of Boomers). But before jumping to conclusions, take into account that the Millennial definition of “loophole” is very different from the Boomer definition! As highly resourceful digital natives, Millennials are looking to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, and are allergic to any sort of processes or systems that slow them down. It’s not about skimping but rather about finding “smart-cuts” (http://ow.ly/cj4Zi) to increase efficiency (80% agree “it’s not about how hard you work, it’s about how smart you work.”).
While older generations might have put up with unnecessary processes & paperwork ala TPS Reports (http://ow.ly/cj55l) in Office Space, Millennials are finding ways to get rid of extraneous steps to increase efficiency. There’s simply no time to write 100-page Powerpoint presentations with “plop factor” and no punch, a 5 slide presentation might just make the point!
by Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Awkward. Quirky. Weird. These probably aren’t the first words that come to your mind when envisioning the most popular girls in high school. But we’ve been hearing more and more in our research with Millennial girls that being quirky is actually something to brag about. High-schoolers we met with over coffee in New Jersey defined their friend group as “quirky” and “weird,” and described the funniest, most popular girl in their class as “awkwardly funny” (they were also quick to point out that girls were definitively funnier than boys)
For a generation that prides itself on being unique and creative, it’s only natural these traits come paired with a dose of quirkiness and awkwardness. Being totally unique often means you’ve got to be a little random and offbeat – case in point, hot young actress Chloe Moretz waxes poetic to Seventeen (http://ow.ly/bTJ1k) about her love of geeky Xbox game Call of Duty and explains, “I’m fun-loving, a complete nerd. I’m ridiculously random. I was on video chat with my best friend and I just broke out in a song about ramen noodles… I started doing all these weird bass noises… you could definitely say I’m weird.”
Similarly, on Hello Giggles , two bubbly high schoolers claim to relate to Taylor Swift’s “nerd” character much better than her “cheerleader” character featured in her video “You Belong With Me.” Senior Nicole provides the rationale, “We’re quirky and weird, and we don’t really take ourselves too seriously. We’re always fooling around and laughing!”
So it’s no surprise that Millennials are anxiously awaiting the return of Jenna Hamilton in MTV’s “Awkward” tonight (check out #Awkward on Twitter). In a study MTV recently did analyzing the defining traits of popular female characters and celebrities, Jenna’s top three were: “smart,” “funny” and “attractive” … not bad for a character that’s also nerdy, awkward and quirky. Her Tweet-able, witty quips have a distinct Millennial sensibility to them – for example, when describing a guy she likes, she states, “He was a remedial speller, and that was proof enough for me to exonerate him.”
Yet there’s certainly shades of being “awkward,” and probably only a Millennial can understand the full nuance of when someone is “awkward in a good way” versus “sooooo awkward” (eyes rolling.) Being able to come up with the perfect #ThatAwkwardMomentWhen based on something funny in your life is desirable; being the girl known for writing something totally awkward on a crush’s Facebook wall is not. As one high school senior in our New Jersey Starbucks meet-up was quick to point out about her group of friends: “We’re weird, but not ‘weird weird.’ We’re ‘funny weird.’” And only a high school girl can truly understand when this delicate line has been crossed!
Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Millennials are often caricatured (“entitled”, “narcissistic”) … and certainly we’d argue there’s a lot of subjectivity and inter-generational misunderstanding happening here. What to a Millennial is a “healthy sense of self” is perhaps to a Gen-Xer an “over inflated ego.” What to one is “entitlement” is to another a “sense of having a place and value” in the scheme of a rather chaotic world.
At MTV, we try to understand things from the Millennial generation through their eyes “inside out,” versus the “outside in” angle much commentary on this generation comes from.
As part of that push to understand what’s really happening, we have also been looking at the way semantics plays into this dynamic.
Case in point: Jean Twenge’s recent study (http://ow.ly/bxeF3) indicates that Millennials are more focused on “extrinsic” values of money, image and fame versus “intrinsic” values of self-acceptance, affiliation and community. (It’s certainly the latest fuel added to the fire of the popular “Generation Me” versus “Generation We” debate.) Twenge’s study is based on an analysis of major longitudinal studies, including Monitoring the Future (conducted since 1976) and the American Freshman Survey (conducted since 1966). While her study sheds light on some truths about this generation, we believe that the semantics of the surveys, using language more familiar 50 years ago, leaves Millennials a bit “lost in translation.”
MTV fielded a brief quantitative survey and conducted an internal focus group to see how some semantics of the American Freshman Survey might lead some to inaccurate assumptions about Millennials. A few of our findings:
1. Millennials aren’t shallow – they’re looking for meaning through doing
In Twenge’s analysis, she notes the declining importance of “Developing a meaningful philosophy of life” from Boomers to Millennials is an indicator Millennials are less intrinsically focused. However, MTV Millennials noted that the quasi-academic notion of “philosophy” might be tripping up respondents. So we pitted this against a more Millennial friendly version (randomized in a list of life goals), and noted that a re-phrasing of this statement generated a significantly higher ranking:
Q: How important is each of the following to you in your life?
American Freshman Project:
“Developing a meaningful philosophy of life” 70%
MTV’s Millennial Version:
“Doing something meaningful with my life” 86%
Top Two Box (Very + Somewhat Impt) Sample: Online survey of 118 18-24 year olds
This goes along with everything we’ve heard in our extensive research on this generation – they’re a pragmatic generation of doers and not just philosophizers. We’ve heard a very earnest desire amongst Millennials to help others, to find meaning in life and to really make an impact. And yes… they might want a little recognition and feedback in the process, which coincides with Twenge’s conclusion that they are placing increased value on “image.” But in a world where image is on display 24/7, isn’t it hard not to?
2. Community is still important… and Millennials find new ways to contribute
Twenge points to a decline in importance of the AFP statement “participating in a community action program” as an indicator that Millennials are less community oriented. But again, the language could trip up respondents - as one MTV Millennial researcher put it, “This sounds like forced community service.” So we rephrased as such:
Q: How important is each of the following to you in your life?
American Freshman Project:
“Participating in a community action program” 36%
MTV’s Millennial version:
“Helping those who are less fortunate in your community” 66%
This result aligns better with the fact that actual volunteerism has increased significantly over the decades.
Similarly, Twenge noted that charitable contributions are down with Millennials. MTV Millennials had issue with the choice of organizations used in the MTF survey– many of which they had never heard of like CARE or Public Citizen. Our Millennials suggested some more topical organizations were Pencils for Promise and Charity Waters.
Some of the charitable organizations on the list they had heard of felt “too big.” One said said “I’d rather support a small Kickstarter versus a big huge charity, which I equate with a big huge corporation. I want to know where my money is going.” Those surveyed agreed – nearly 7 in 10 said “I prefer to donate money to smaller charities or organizations instead of larger ones.”
We also know that Millennials have a different way of donating, whether that’s through “text to donate” campaigns or through conscious consumerism. MTV found that 70% agree, “I’d prefer to support a cause through buying a product that donates to charity (e.g. Tom’s Shoes) instead of sending money directly to the charity.”
3. Eco-consciousness is a given – not a life goal
We live in a different world than the era of MadMen – some might recall when Don Draper takes his family on a picnic and disposes of litter in the grass. The 60’s gave rise to a host of PSAs educating Americans about cleaning up the environment. In the 90’s, lobbyists had to work to get it on the agenda of the government. Now, it’s status quo that everyone is trying to do their part to help the environment – consumers, corporations and the government.
Much debate has ensued over the decline in Millennial eco-consciousness, measured by the decline in importance of a goal on the ARF survey such as “Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment.” But as Ypulse points out, “For Millennials who have grown up being educated about environmental issues and preserving natural resources, there’s no question of whether to recycle or mind one’s carbon footprint; it’s ingrained in their behavior. It’s not “important” because they don’t have to think about it, they just do it.” (http://ow.ly/bxeHH).
In sum, we say look out for the semantic traps and easy stereotypes of all this generational diagnosis. If your business depends on understanding your Millennial consumer (or workforce), its more productive and enlightening to try to see it through their eyes, their language, their world view. Because sooner or later it is their eyes, their language and their view that will be running the world.
- Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
It’s well known that churches are struggling to reach younger members, supported by Pew’s recently released study (http://ow.ly/aTTIA) indicating that Millennials are increasingly identifying as “unaffiliated” with organized religions. But MTV continues to see a real spiritual hunger from our audience… a generation that’s grown up accessing the Bible, Koran and Dharmapada through Google has a different outlook on spirituality. Recent MTV research indicates Millennials are looking for religion to borrow from the technology-driven world they’ve grown up in – offering an environment that’s open-sourced, fluid, hackable and allows for self-expression. And with or without permission, they’re already starting to innovate spirituality in key ways…
Millennials in MTV’s study expressed that the Internet offers their generation high-speed access to perspectives from around the world, and this exposure means religions start to melt together. Erin, 23 explained, “I’ve learned that religions are all the same at their core, it’s just packaging and rules that are different.” One Latina woman who was raised Catholic noted, “My research into it seems to indicate that Jesus would make a good Buddhist and Shakyamuni a good Christian.”
This results in a more “customized” approach in defining one’s religion. When everyone from parents to the Fleet Foxes has told Millennials that it’s important to be unique, “like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,” many are customizing their religion or even mashing-up different religions, with 83% of MTV viewers agreeing, “It’s OK to be fluid about your religion – choosing which practices and beliefs work best for you.” We hear young people say things like “I’m Catholic, but I support gay marriage.” In terms of religion mash-ups, Jaclyn, 19, describes herself as a “Jewddhist,” finding “meaning and connection in Buddhism” to supplement her Judaism, and Laura, 24 “takes the best things from all religions.” Several who were raised Christian now incorporate traditionally Eastern elements such as meditation and a belief in karma - one Southern Baptist noted she is “drawn to Eastern beliefs and the incorporation of chakras.”
Some churches have begun to adapt to this generation’s embracing of flexidoxy. Ryan Melogy, one of the young founders of Faithstreet (http://ow.ly/aTTLR) - a site that connects people and churches- explains that his church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn offers classes in meditation, a practice traditionally associated with Eastern religions.
iStreaming to higher powers
A generation that wants to flatten the hierarchy across many civic and commercial institutions not surprisingly wants access to a higher power without intermediaries. Matthew, a college junior, explains: “It feels as though spirituality used to be this unobtainable thing that can only be unlocked by attending church and listening to someone preach- it should be more interactive.”
The right to administer marital rites is already shifting hands from the hierarchical few to the ordinary person, as many Millennials appoint an internet-certified friend-as-pastor (even Lady Gaga officiated a gay marriage.) According to the Washington Post (http://ow.ly/aTTTC), 31% of couples select a friend or family member to officiate their wedding. We’ve heard from pastors who are better connecting with this generation that they try to mitigate the feeling of hierarchy – one minister we spoke with said he empowers his young congregation to extend forgiveness for sins to each other, instead of relying solely on a church leader.
In sum, Millennials are looking for and already creating innovation in the realm of organized religion. We asked panelists to comment on this blurb from the New York Times (http://ow.ly/aTTWq) alluding to the need for a “Steve Jobs of religion:”
“We need a Steve Jobs of religion. Someone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious. Like Mr. Jobs’s creations, this new way would be straightforward and unencumbered and absolutely intuitive. Most important, it would be highly interactive. I imagine a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment.”
The consensus was… “controversial, but spot on.” They liked the notion of “experimentation without harassment” and a more open, accessible and interactive approach to religion. Samantha, 21 said, “I definitely agree. I feel like religion is now just sitting in a pew…. Boring. I want to be in a place to really talk out your problems and have constructive ways of dealing with them.” Clearly a generation raised in family 2.0, where it was all up for discussion at the kitchen table, is looking to download the next version of religion.
- Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Tonight MTV presents “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong” – a one-hour special that documents Demi’s struggle with physical and emotional issues and her journey through recovery. Demi represents a new breed of Millennial celebrity – one who is loved not for her shiny veneer and untouchable image, but rather for presenting an extremely raw and authentic version of herself to her fans. Some call this new obsession with people and things that are imperfect: “flawsome.” Our panelists find Demi to be “inspirational” “real” and “not afraid to embrace her differences.” As Benjamin, 17 puts it “she’s a human kind of celebrity.”
Young people today are demanding transparency from celebs as well as a new level of intimacy with them… Millennials choose role models who are unique, true to themselves and not afraid to own up to their problems. With the advent of celeb gossip blogs & magazines in the past decade, it’s becoming harder and harder for celebs to maintain their pristine image… but while most remain mum or deny rumors, Demi has embraced her less-than-perfect image. Adalee, 19 explains “Unlike many celebs, she faced everybody and admitted that she isn’t perfect and was in rehab. Most celebs try to hide the fact that they are going through troublesome times.” Lindsay 21, says “I respect her for being so open about her mental health issues, which aren’t talked about enough and are heavily stigmatized.”
Body issues continue to be a growing issue for young women, and many MTV fans note that she’s become a great role model for young women who feel the pressure to be “super skinny.” She’s not “totally fake looking” and is able to “love who she is.” Even guys are getting in on the Demi-love… Jervone, 19 says “she is a good person for keeping it real and not acting like she isn’t a normal teenager…. Go her!”
As we hear more and more from Millennials… perfect = boring. This generation says it’s time to celebrate what’s real.
Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
1. They seem to like poking fun at themselves…in that self-referential-post-modern-we-are-in-on-the-joke-about-how-others-see-us way:
The now defunct yet wildly popular “Stuff White People” Like seemed to launch the “Stuff____people____” genre in 2008, and since then we’ve seen a whole host of sites and handles that reflect this satirical Millennial mainstay: @TotalFratMove and @TotalSororMove, @BetchesLuvThis (which pokes fun of many a young women’s obsession with having a gay BFF, claiming to have ADD and “Betch of the Week” Pippa Middleton), “15 Things White Girls Do on Facebook” (share pictures of undeserving food, post complaints like “Never eating at AppleBees AGAIN” or publically thank their hubby for being the best hubby in the world)….
… all of which has has inexorably led to the massive viral video series “Shit Girls Say”. The original video has over 14 million viewers and a cameo by Juliette Lewis to boot. In the comments section of this video are a massive pile of “I hate to admit it…but this is SO me!”
So we talked to our MTV Millennial advisory board to dig a little deeper into this phenomenon, to try to understand how they really feel about these kinds of sites and humor and what’s driving all the eyeballs.
First they told us about their generational trait to want to celebrate a more flawed, real side of themselves….something we’ve heard described as “flawsome.” As Amanda, 24, puts it “Who wants to hang out with someone who is really proud of themselves all the time? Flawless can be boring, and cocky, one-uppers are pretty exhausting and annoying.” In fact, 79% of our MTV Millennial panel claims “It’s cool to make fun of yourself.”
Second, we heard that when your whole life is on display on Facebook, the stakes are very high if you don’t have a sense of humor about it. All the posts where you reflected deeply on Kings of Leon lyrics…where on earth do you go with that if you can’t have a public laugh at yourself for it?
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we heard that Millennials don’t want to look the fool who is out of the loop. It’s important to be in on the joke….and the best way to do that it to create the joke. As we’ve noted before, smart ‘n’ funny is the new rock ‘n’ roll, with the emphasis on smart. Amanda, 24, correlates this desire to poke fun of ourselves with the popularity of Snooki “We’d rather be the first ones to poke fun at ourselves instead of waiting for someone to criticize us for it. I think Snooki is the perfect example of this. She’s totally laughing with us. She knows the hair, and the pickles and the tanning are over-the-top ridiculous, but she owns it and she’s the first one to laugh at herself. That’s why Snooki holds a special place in our hearts.”
This is, it seems, the age of hyper-consciousness of how you are portraying yourself to the public, as you “come of age, on stage.” And with this self-awareness also comes self-reflection, a constant analysis, synthesis, remixing and reposting of one’s attitudes and behaviors. As Jaclyn, 18, puts it “I think a defining feature of my generation is we often feel like we’re living in our own reality show…writer, director, cast, and editor…”
Full disclosure, as an Xer, I’m jealous of Millennials. We didn’t laugh for a single second at of our obsession with Saved by the Bell. And I was that suburban white girl driving my parents’ SUV around, blasting 90’s hip-hop like Gin & Juice… without a even a hint of absurdity.