If there’s one things brands really love in the social media age, it’s trying to be relatable to young people. How better to get the kids through the doors or spending their increasing disposable income on your products than by convincing them you’re just like them? Unfortunately for them, it’s a thin line between cool and down-to-earth, and just plain embarrassing. Their failures have brought us countless cringes and the Brands Saying Bae Twitter account, which documents the well-intentioned but seriously cringeworthy attempts by brands to interact with the kids through the medium of internet speak.
Perhaps the silliest example of this in recent weeks was the bright idea from Adam Aron, big American businessman and new head of media chain AMC Entertainment, who suggested that we millennials are so addicted to our phones that we would really love cinemas where texting was allowed.
“When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie”, he argued, “they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow.”
It’s probably worth noting that Aron is 52 years old. How he knows what I and my friends want when we go to the cinema, I’m not sure. I definitely don’t remember him asking. A chat about the topic revealed that for a lot of people I know, going to the cinema represents a type of escapism. If we want to use social media while watching a film, we’ll happily do that in the comforts of our own bedrooms, tucked under our duvets with Netflix and a takeaway pizza. But if we’re going to pay £8 for the privilege of sitting in a darkened room with a gigantic screen and unnerving surround sound, my God, we are going to make sure we enjoy those two and a half hours of escape from the demands of reality.
This seems to me to reflect a pretty irritating pattern: people older than us love to tell us everything about ourselves, without ever actually listening to what we have to say. They know what we love and hate, what we need and what is extravagant, which of our decisions are sensible and which will lead to ruin. We millennials (clearly a homogenous group – being born at some point between the late 1980s and late 1990s obviously transcends racial, gender, class, and any other important sociological divisions) love smartphones and the Kardashians, and it makes us shallow. Or maybe it’s because we’re shallow – they’re not really sure of that one. We aren’t making enough money at a young enough age, and this folly means we’ll have no pensions to ensure comfort in our old age. We’re irresponsible, wasting all our money renting instead of jumping on the housing ladder at 25. We spend too much time staring at our phones, as if the 1980s was a wonderful time when everyone happily chatted away to every stranger they bumped into on their commute. We don’t work hard enough – despite more of us than ever going to university. We don’t want those degrees to go to waste either, and have the cheek to desire more from life than a soulless 9-5 office job, 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs. How entitled of us!
I’d like to suggest, with genuine respect and understanding, that they maybe listen to us for once. When we complain about the problems we face, it would be nice for them to acknowledge, once in a while, that we didn’t choose to be in the situation we find ourselves in. Millennials didn’t invent the internet, or smartphones, or reality TV. We didn’t create an environment where an undergraduate degree is becoming less and less valued – we were told that it was the key to success, so it’s only reasonable that a lot of us feel a bit hard done by when this turns out to have been a massive lie told to handily cut us out of the youth unemployment statistics. When we take some time in our 20s to decide what we really want to do with our lives, it’s because we can see, through the internet or tv, what life could be like, and we don’t want to settle for less. We didn’t create the strange society we now live in; we haven’t been voting for long enough, for a start.
It’s worth noting, of course, that this isn’t a new phenomenon. People have been complaining about the generations above and below them pretty much since the idea of generations was thought up. But being constantly patronised, belittled and told we’re just not doing anything right isn’t exactly a way to encourage us to become productive, happy members of society. We’re not as dumb as lots of people seem to think. It might seem shocking, but we can be interested in and passionate about politics and the state of the world, while still liking to keep up with the Kardashians. Engage with us. Ask us what we think, and really listen. We might love our smartphones, but I promise you, we still know how to have a good chat, face to face. And we certainly don’t want to text in a movie theatre.
[Lauren Cummings –@__laurenC]
Image: The Telegraph