@MTVInsights

What MTV found out about St. Louis millennials when it visited for research (Video)

By Kelly Moffitt, Social Engagement Manager - St. Louis Business Journal

MTV’s Vice President of Insights Innovation, Alison Hillhouse, recently came as part of a five-person team to St. Louis and studied what she calls “generational innovation” going on in the city. Originally from St. Louis, Hillhouse and her team are charged with understanding millennials and then taking that research back to MTV producers, who then use the ideas drummed up from across the country for show development.

Her team came to St. Louis for four days in February and found the energy in the city to be “extraordinary.” You can watch the video embedded below ( or at this link) to get a sense of the young tech entrepreneurs, non-profit founders and artists Hillhouse spoke with, largely centered around Cherokee Street. Though the people Hillhouse interviewed avoided the word “movement” to describe the amorphous feeling, she said there’s a lot of passion to change things not only on a personal level (like you see in New York) but also on a city-wide level.

Her team’s visit to Cherokee Street, including Nebula Coworking space and Smalls tea and coffee, reminded Hillhouse of Brooklyn but rawer as innovations in St. Louis are still happening for the first time. The qualitative research found these were reasons millennials found value in St. Louis:

1. The ability to make an impact—a smaller city gave entrepreneurs the chance to make a significant change with programs like “Sloup.”

2. Space, budget and freedom to experiment: There’s space to try and fail at projects in “beta mode” while living for a low cost.

3. The city is a blank canvas: Abandoned storefronts, warehouses and cheap, old homes offer a space to revamp.

4. The emphasis on community: People are nice here — plus the city is small enough to get connected to many of the creative movers and shakers.

Opinions of St. Louis from outsiders are changing as well, Hillhouse said.

“We spoke with a few Wash U grads who stuck around after graduating who said that five years ago, the people they knew who graduated from Wash U would go straight back to New York or LA, but now there’s a sense that St. Louis is a viable option for starting a business,” Hillhouse said.

The research team found that the vibe in St. Louis fits with what’s going on in other “second cities” like Detroit or Memphis. Previous research her team had done on the American Dream showed that 70 percent of people want to live in a city in their 20s. That passion for urban living was something Hillhouse found corroborated in St. Louis.

So, will what Hillhouse found in St. Louis end up as MTV’s next ‘Sixteen and Pregnant’? Likely not, but you never know what story lines or components of a show might make it in, Hillhouse says.

Get More: MTV Shows

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal on July 18, 2014.

A Millennial City of Dreams

By Alison Hillhouse,  MTV Insights

“I tell all of my friends out on the West Coast, St. Louis is the City of Dreams. You can do whatever you want here if you have the will and ambition.”  

—  Lisa Govro, young entrepreneur 

Get More: MTV Shows

Yes, St. Louis. Not New York, not San Francisco, not Austin, not Chicago. Pockets of young people are choosing the road less travelled and flocking to cities that offer more of a “blank canvas” on which to create their dreams. Think Nashville, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and St. Louis … cities that have not been known as “hot spots” for recent grads, cities that young people have historically avoided in favor of the surrounding suburbs. But things are changing, as MTV research shows 70% of young people want to live out their 20’s in a downtown or near a downtown, not the suburbs. Where many older people see urban decay and crime in these cities, Millennials see opportunity.

MTV recently travelled to St. Louis and met with young tech entrepreneurs, non-profit founders and artists to learn more about the groundswell of young people revitalizing and re-crafting this urban landscape (they balked at the word “movement” which seemed to try too hard at pinning down the amorphous energy bubbling up). These urban pioneers are launching tech-startups in abandoned buildings, starting art collectives in old breweries, remaking turn-of-the-century homes and building pockets of commerce where young people can live, work, consume and bike everywhere. Universally they are connected to the mission of revitalizing the city and creating a community of likeminded individuals.

Why Millennials are saying “yes” to reviving cities:

Make an Impact 

Young people want to make a tangible positive impact on their world, and feel more empowered to do so than ever before. Across the country, they are realizing that a smaller city, especially one that’s seen decay, offers an opportunity to create projects and launch businesses that can significantly change an urban landscape. According to MTV research, 80% of Millennials feel like it’s important to “revive cities in decay.”

In St. Louis, we learned of “Sloup” – a micro-funding monthly soup dinner where mostly young people pitch art or community improvement ideas, and attendees vote on which to implement with the proceeds from that night.

Community activist/artist Becca Moore, 25 explains, “I received a lot of pressure from people like, ‘why aren’t you moving to NYC, LA, or Chicago’… but the opportunities I have in a city like St. Louis are more exciting… I’m able to plug in right away and be involved in projects that impact the community.”

While a new coffee shop in Brooklyn is a dime a dozen, Small’s Tea Shop in St. Louis, recently launched by Lisa Govro, plays a role in the revitalization of the historic Cherokee Street neighborhood that thrived in the early 1900’s. Young people and Mexican immigrants are working together here to create a new community that’s a hotbed of artist collectives, tech start-ups, quirky shops and popular Mexican restaurants…. somewhat paralleling San Fran’s Mission district. 

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Sloup MicroFunding Dinner

Space, budget and freedom to experiment

Young people in smaller cities boast of the opportunities to start a project in “beta mode,” try it out, and if it fails, start something new… all while maintaining a lower cost of living (Yes, it’s possible to live in a beautiful Victorian-era home in St. Louis with a handful of friends for just $160 a month).

With such a low cost of living, it’s not surprising that St. Louis is becoming more attractive to young start-up founders and artists. As developer Matt Ström, 26 says, “St. Louis is becoming a good place to start a business – it’s part of the ‘Silicone Prairie.’” Mallory Nezam, 27, notes, “My friends are brilliant artists in New York and have this little chunk of time to do art between 3AM and 6AM– but people in St. Louis have that time, all the time.”

As Moore says, “I’m not sure I would’ve been able to do this if I had to move to another city and hustle to pay rent… my extra time and energy goes into projects that I really care about. The barriers are lower in a lot of rust belt cities – you can see your projects gain traction a lot faster.”

Popular band Sleepy Kitty recently relocated from their “tiny cramped space” in Chicago to their duplex “Art Castle” on Cherokee Street, where they have a music studio, a graphic arts studio and living space all-in-one.

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Sleepy Kitty’s “Art Castle” - duplex art/living space in an old brewery

Blank Canvas

In cities with multitudes of abandoned storefronts, warehouses and dirt-cheap turn-of-the century homes, it feels like anything is possible… like BANK projects, an old drive-through bank repurposed into an art gallery by recent college grads.

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Daniel Burnett, part of the Screwed Arts Collective, is inspired by the fact that St. Louis is a “grimy city.” He explains, “I think a lot of young people are tired of over-produced culture. Making everything shiny and plastic has its place, but even a lot of pop culture is embracing grimy elements. Grimy means you can get away with a little more, people are more relaxed, living is cheap, urban decay is prevalent.

Community Vibe

In mid-sized cities like St. Louis, young creators speak positively about the tight knit community where people are “nice,” “welcoming” and “eager” to partner with you to make things happen. Ström says, “You have to be careful who you tell your ideas to – not because they’ll take your idea, but because the next day you’ll have tons of texts and emails from people saying “I heard you are thinking of doing this thing, I’m so excited. How can I help?” And Amy Flauaus, former Brooklyn resident and owner of Strange Overtones vintage shop, says, “It would take a lot for me to leave St. Louis at this point. Everyone just seems so happy here.”

 

 

POST-AUTHENTICITY: Authenticity still key for Millennials, but it’s becoming more layered and nuanced

By Alison Hillhouse,  MTV Insights

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When fake becomes authentic: Faux-Wood Paneling shoes from Proenza, posted on ithinkyou’reswell

Over the past decade, every last bastion of culture and consumerism has strived to be “authentic” – chain stores like West Elm offer handcrafted textiles from the Philippines, Dove produces tear-jerking documentaries on the meaning of beauty and Brooklyn grocers pride themselves on carrying locally-made potato chips (what’s so authentic about potato chips coming from Brooklyn, anyhow?)

This stuff is clearly working, so it’s not surprising that people and brands are beginning to explore the next levels and layers of authenticity. In fact, signs are pointing to the emergence of “post-authenticity” … playfully exploring the blurry lines between fake and real, between unique and mass.

People are saying: maybe everything doesn’t have to be authentic, if we all acknowledge together that it’s fake. Maybe sometimes we shouldn’t try so hard to be authentic. Maybe authenticity lies in owning “fake.” And maybe what’s at the core of authenticity – uniqueness – is not so easy to come by anymore. In this vast world of the internet, is anything truly unique?

Three interesting examples on post-authenticity come to mind:

1)     Trendspotting agency K-Hole’s declaration of “normcore,” a deliberate decision to reject being unique… “normcore moves from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts into sameness”

2)     Proenza launching “fake” looking designs from the “underbelly of America.” Designer Jack McCullough says of their recent collection: “we wanted it to all feel kind of fake – like not real wood – paneling. Everything fabricated.”

3)     Our obsession with the uber-fake, like Twinkies or ‘90s sitcoms or ‘80s computer graphics or any kitschy nostalgia for that matter (TV shows, music, foods etc). What’s authentic is the naiveté we once possessed when we genuinely fell in love with these things. Now, we might all be jaded.

Post-authenticity and Millennials

Our audience is grappling with the move towards post-authenticity in their own worlds.  Some of the most heated conversations we see around social media involve teens complaining about who is “trying too hard” to seem like they are not trying. For example, the “no-makeup selfie” phenomenon was once respected, now teens question whether there is something inauthentic about trying too hard to be authentic.

On the other hand, there almost seems to be more leeway granted to someone who clearly owns up to the fact that they ARE trying. Case in point: the elaborately staged @perfectprompictures Instagram with 100K followers

Another example: young people once wanted reality TV shows to feel so real that you were unaware there were camera crews and MTV producers hovering over the cast. Now, Millennials love to catch a glimpse of the camera guy, or see some of the orchestration of reality shows… knowing full well, it isn’t all just hidden cameras in a house.

We’re continuing to explore how the concept of “authenticity” morphs, how our audience interprets it and ultimately, how it impacts their attitude towards content.

PREDICTAGRAMMING

By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights

The 8th deadly sin according to Millennials…“trying too hard” in social media, especially when it comes to photo sharing. 

Posting requires a careful balancing act between presenting a good version of yourself but not trying too hard…. between revealing your personal life but not overdoing it… between capitalizing on share-worthy opportunities but not taking too much advantage of them. Getting the balance wrong can impact your social standing, particularly among teens who tend to over-analyze every move peers make.

When asked about the most “predictable” Instagram behaviors right now, our panelists told us about instances in which peers were trying just a little too hard to look good, get likes or paradoxically, appear casual. At MTV, we refer to this as “Predictagramming.”

Our panelists have shared with us some of the latest Predictagrams that have saturated their feeds and gotten under their skin:

Sneaky selfies:

  • “Posting photos that make you wonder ‘who is taking your pictures?’ Like photos of you ‘candidly’ brunching, behind you as you ‘walk’ down the street as your Loubotuins flash me, etc.”

 Humble-bragging:

  • “When people COMPLAIN & BRAG in the same sentence or post, for example: ‘It was a really tough decision, and I hated having to turn down some great job opportunities… even though I could graduate in 3 years, I’ve decided to stay and do all 4.”
  • “On-purpose ugly selfies with downgrading captions because people are trying to get compliments”

 Over-editing:

  • ”When people use all the filters it’s obvious and embarrassing, especially for a selfie”

 Strategic #hashtagging:

  • “One of my biggest pet peeves is when girls do their boyfriends for #mcm (Man crush Mondays)… as if we didn’t already know you had a crush on this guy because you are DATING him.”
  •  “Non-ironic use of hashtags, except when necessary (like names of places). If you have to hashtag ‘nails’ or ‘dress’ in every picture I am annoyed.”
  • “TBT, MCM, WCW or any other made-up day as an excuse to post more pictures (like National Siblings Day?)”

 Over-documenting:

  • “Monitoring weight loss via half naked selfies”
  • “When someone checks in so much they are stalkable”
  • “Posting a clever gym status faithfully every day”

 Gaming the system:

  • “When people or companies buy thousands of followers on Twitter/Facebook and you can tell because no one engages with their content. So unethical!”
  • “Scheduled tweets that are obvious”
  • “When people post something and realize it’s not getting the attention they want, so they take it down and put it back up later at a more strategic time.”

 WTF?!

  • “When girls find ways to somehow morph into giraffes and find a way to angel their neck into a photo.”

Snapchat-iquette, from the eyes of Millennials

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.”

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The “Snapchat-iquette”

  1. 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.
  2. Don’t overdo selfies to people who aren’t your best friends.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. Be careful when you open videos in public. You have no idea what they contain.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.

 

Digital Bookending

By Alison Hillhouse

Many have fallen prey to the narrative that Millennials choose to disengage with “real-world” experiences and spend 24/7 on technology. While we knew this wasn’t the case, we were surprised to find out just how much Young Millennials are actually seeking out hands-on, tech-free maker experiences, in our recent meta-study on the younger half of this demo. Whether it’s baking, crafting, woodworking or jewelry making, they tell us of the immense satisfaction they get from these immersive, self-soothing experiences. 

But tech isn’t entirely removed from these maker experiences, as Millennials engage in what we call “Digital Bookending” – research & documenting the before & after. The making of a duct tape wallet (a hot craft right now among girls and guys) involves first watching a how-to YouTube video for instructions, then immersing yourself in the craft, and finally capping it off with an Instagrammed photo to express yourself/get credit for your work/connect with peers on a deeper level. (motivations of course vary…)

Three of our panelists tell us about their “Digital Bookending” experiences:

1)  Alondra, 17, tells of her pop-art project, in which she first “looked at cool pop art pictures online… role models and important cultural figures.” She then chose to feature her role model Jenni Rivera, a famous Mexican-American singer whose life ended on Alondra’s birthday and recently wrote a #1 NY Times best-seller. Afterwards, she posted her creation to Instagram, where 68 friends were a fan of her work:

 2)  Gabrielle, 17, tells us about her duct tape prom dress, which took a whopping 100 hours of work! She says “I’ve always loved reptiles, and couldn’t think of a more awesome theme than dragons!” To prep her for the work, she went online and watched a Project Runway episode featuring duct tape dresses. Her process was very elaborate, including hand-cut flames and a wire-framed tail. Obviously, this was not only a sensation at the prom but also afterwards on Facebook.  

3)  Deven, 17, made a “plant cell cake.” He first went on YouTube to see how other people made cell models, and “observed how they structured and positioned various parts of the cell.” Deven also Instagrammed his final “Eukaryoptic Plant Cell.”

Brands can take advantage of “Digital bookending” by facilitating the before or after experience… whether that’s sponsoring DIY content or launching contests for Millennials to share creations. 

Bakers, Makers and Vampire Stakers: How Young Millennials Engage in “Maker Culture”

By Alison Hillhouse

 

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

 

Twitter is Trending

By Alison Hillhouse,  MTV Insights

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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…

Parent-Free

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.” 

Subtweeting

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.”

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Thought-training

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.”

Filtered followers

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

50 SHADES OF NERD

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….

 #1 Micro-cliquing

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.)


#2 Cross-cliquing

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:


#3 Techno-cliquing

 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:


Why Millennials gave the Olympics a Gold

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.

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