One of the best status messages I have come cross on Facebook says “the only place where it is cool to talk to a wall.” This reflects the popular predictions that pundits have often made about the generation that loves to be online. They have always argued that the online habits will turn a whole generation into antisocial isolated zombies. And that the Google enabled world will make everyone ‘search’ for bite sized info as the appetite for discovering new things will go down tremendously.
Has it really happened?
Dan Tapscott in his book “Grown Up Digital” has debunked many of these popular predictions. He calls this multi tasking, living in multiple dimension generation as Net Generation. He goes on to explain that in order to understand what the future holds we need to understand the Net Generation. He debunks the theory about short attention spans and zero social skills. He terms the Net Generation as remarkably bright community, which has developed revolutionary new ways of thinking, interacting, working, and socializing.
Popular trend watchers have now started to speak about a new trend of ‘mass mingling’ where the net generation will live simultaneously in real and virtual world and make both the worlds meaningful and engaging.
So is technology making people alone and isolated or is technology enabling them to be connected and engaged?
Technology actually has moved to a new level. Version 2.0 of net is not PC but on the mobile. The very basis of the aloof argument has been turned on its head. So now your friends, connections, appointments, and possibly emotions always travel with you.
The basic insight of people wanting to be connected has not changed. It’s this need for connection that had driven 500 Million people to be on Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Four Square, Google Wave etc. and through the act of status updates, feeds, blogs, pictures and interests they broadcast their desire to find new connections. The invariably find new connections and friends through common interests, hobbies, opinions and practices. It doesn’t stop in virtual space only. Look at your Facebook page and see how many event invites are there. By attending any such event people have proactively connected with a bunch of common interest friends in real world. So instead of making the net generation socially challenged, it made them socially active and eclectic.
This version 2.0 of internet may spark off four dominant trends, here’s a look at all four of them
Go out often: Technology has made finding interesting place around the cities easier than ever. Places can not only be discovered, but also is commented upon. This will encourage people to explore their world more. This means people will eat out more often but at a far larger number of places than ever before.
Get bitten by wanderlust: The constant feed of holiday pictures from a variety of locations will encourage people to pack their bags and discover their world more often. The normal holiday hotspots will make way for newer more exotic destinations. May be tourism boards need to revisit the very motivations of travel
Niche will get powered by mainstream: The niche performers, products, brands, bands will increasingly get access to mainstream audiences as customers will become patrons and interest groups will broadcast their approval to a wider set of audience
The world will become large: the world instead of becoming a global village will actually become a very large thriving vibrant mega polis. This will mean more people to meet, more things to do, more smells to savour, more connections to be made.
This is a very interesting transformation that we will see all around us. A generation that was supposed to be socially challenged will challenge the norms of social connectivity.
Published in 4Ps of Marketing, July 15th 2010 issue
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