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Millenials and the resistance to tech’s creepy stalker vibes

Love tech? Of course you do, you’re reading Memeburn. Thing is, even if you were born after the mid 1970s, you’re probably afraid of at least one aspect of technology.

According to Melanie Sheffler, editor-in-chief of YPulse magazine, most millenials — also known as Generation Y — are afraid that technology is “becoming something of a creepy stalker”.

“There’s no question that millennials are tech-savvy — they’’re even occasionally called ‘“digital natives’” because technology and digital media have been a part of their lives since birth. But we’re seeing a little backlash despite all the benefits because technology is becoming something of a creepy stalker,” says Sheffler.

The backlash that Shreffler describes seems very real given my anecdotal experiences with my kids and their friends.

There is a huge, sometimes obsessive, interest in “millennials” by the tech industry and marketers, but there are a lot of myths about how they behave online, and with each other.

Sheffler talks about how technology is consuming everything we do and how we interact with each other. She cites television commercials such as for Samsung’s Smart TV and Optimum, where technology usage is the focal point.

“Both commercials cross the creepy line when technology is no longer about enabling our lives but begins to feel like a living, breathing member of the family.”

“In reality, millennials wouldn’’t choose a life without technology (we dare you to try to take a cell phone away from a teenager), but they’re conscious of the effect it’s having on them and their relationships. Marketers need to walk a fine line in presenting tech to tweens, teens, and 20-somethings. It should be shown as improving their communication and relationships, not dictating their lives,” she adds.

When I look at my kids (a just-turned 18 year old daughter and 24 year old son) and their friends, they aren’t the share-everything, technophile evangelists that you might expect them to be — or at least those people without kids imagine those generations to be like.

They are extremely careful about what they share online, and they don’t jump on every consumer tech bandwagon there is, and they certainly do not believe everything they read online.

For example, my daughter chooses not to have a cell phone: she has a relatively new iMac and an iPod Touch and is quite content. My son is very well equipped with tech stuff (a new Macbook Pro, iPhone, etc) but doesn’t share much at all online and can even go days without his phone. Their friends seem similar in their attitudes to tech.

And they certainly don’t like the way commercial interests portray them in ads, or in the assumptions they make about them. And the more that marketers try to capture the essence of young people, in their seemingly clever ad campaigns, the more they will be pushed away.

That’s just the way it is and no amount of market research and study can change that because to them it means that the mainstream has caught up with their sub-cultures and it’s time to move on.

Companies that try to be early in spotting and commercialising a youth sub-culture are engaged in a risky strategy. They might win some nods from peers, but in their target groups, they are far more likely to induce feelings of revulsion rather than evoke a “like.”

Older generations, such as mine, are probably bigger technophiles, and often seem to be more obsessed with tech gadgets than younger generations, and can be very clueless about what they share online — far more often than you might think.

It often seems as if it’s the older generations that are the wannabe “millennials,” as portrayed in the popular mindset, while the real ones are more like what we should be: healthily blasé and selective about tech, and hyper-aware about their online activities and privacy.

Author | Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley

Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and the culture of disruption. More