A Brave New Digital World Will Smack Us

Translation: Cars, Facebook, and Smartphones

If you were born before 1994, you are not one of them. Which may be a good thing.

Those born in 1994 and beyond are “the Internet generation,” and they are not like you.

The demarcation point was the launch of Netscape, the Internet browser that made it easy for people to surf the Web and changed the world forever. It led to Yahoo, Google and then Facebook. Along with it came the cell phone and text messaging.

Put it altogether and we discover that kids age 16 and younger are different. Their hometown is not New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Their crib resides in Facebook. Here is where they keep tabs on their homies in the confines of their bedroom. When offsite they high-five via text messaging. They communicate in short bursts. Long form communication is anathema.

I got a peak inside this world from Mike Walsh, author and self-described anthropologist “looking at the disruptive impact of innovation on consumer behavior.” He presented at the Saturday METal breakfast in Los Angeles with a multimedia display that showed how things will never be the same.

“We’re at impasse about what to do with this new generation,” he said. “It’s a new world, a generation that never lived without the Web.”

It’s changing how information is absorbed and communicated, Walsh explained. Advertisers are racking their noggins over how to creatively con folks into consuming their products. The old methods, like TV and print advertising, don’t work. This is also true now for mature adults, who have been enveloped by the electronic tsunami of razzle-dazzle communication.

Greetings From Turkey

My favorite example of how digital technology has changed culture comes from Turkey. Walsh began with a slide from a Turkish movie titled “At, Avrat Silah,” an old proverb I am told translates to Horse, Woman, Gun. He used it to explain why Turkish men today buy very expensive smartphones. It times past it seems that real men in Turkey prized their horse, woman and gun, but times have changed.

The horse is now the car. Getting the woman apparently requires one to be adept at Facebook, where Turkey is the 5th largest user in the world of the social network. The gun? It is now the smartphone. The better the phone the bigger the gun.

“When Turkish men meet the first thing they do is put their phone on the table,” said Walsh.

Mike Walsh

Now, I totally respect foreign cultures. Fine with me if that’s what they do. Sadly, I think the same thing is happening here. If you’re not using an iPhone or iPad you’re just a little less hip. And, you know, girls prefer guys with a fancy gun.

Shit. I was just learning that a nice pair of shoes eases the foray into a woman’s heart. I really don’t care much for smartphones and was recently teased by a woman for using a dumb phone. But I digress.

The Internet generation represents a whole new ball game. They don’t watch TV. A lot of what they watch comes through YouTube or other methods of online delivery. Their Universe is inside Facebook. And they’d rather create content than absorb it. Some of the most successful advertising of late are from campaigns that encourage and allow Johnny Technology to pitch the brand based on what he perceives it to be.

“You can’t buy people’s attention like you used to,” said Walsh. “Your brand is not the one that matters. It‘s the consumer’s brand. They have challenged the way we do business.”

Walsh explains what this digital world is all about in his new book, “Futuretainment.” You can learn more at his Web site, which is the best I’ve ever seen. Walsh is also a keynote speaker and business consultant with “unique insights into the growing influence of new markets on breakthrough innovation and business transformation.”

The World of Futuretainment

During the Q&A session at the METal breakfast, hosted by Ken Rutkowski, I asked Walsh what has been the impact on social skills of the Internet generation. It seems to me we are raising a generation of kids with attention deficit disorder.

“It’s a big problem,” he said. In China, where the Internet is a primary source of entertainment, “the fastest growing group is Internet addiction,” where treatment takes place on old military compounds.

How quaint.

I imagine much of what’s being said here is not unlike what happened in the ‘50s, with “the television generation.” TV changed everything. We turned into couch potatoes and entertainment zombies.

The wheels of technology now turn.

Other METal notes:

Alex Lightman questioned why people spend their time developing software applications instead of focusing on bigger markets like energy. Venture capitalist William Quigley, in his presentation, found it odd that economists are downgrading the growth of the U.S. economy at a time when Wall Street estimates are rising.

I don’t mean to give either one short space here but I want to get one more thing in before this blog post gets too long.

Alexis and Bianca at METal

When the METal attendees check in for breakfast we are greeted at the sign-in table by three terrific woman. Maya is the juice that runs Ken’s engine and keeps METal moving forward. Alexis has been with us for a while and is wonderful as well. It seems this Saturday the sister of Alexis, Bianca, joined the table. I had the opportunity to chat with Alexis and Bianca. Fortunate me. They are charming and a pleasure to be around. The result is I get to post this photo, which I figured would encourage some of you to read to the end! And for that I thank you.

Strength & honor,

Brian

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