In what might be considered a typical anti-establishment rebellion of youth, teenagers of the 2020s seem to be disenchanted by their parents’ excessive pre-occupation with all manner of digital gadgets and lifestyles. Instead of iPods and smart phones, today’s emerging adults prefer acoustic guitars and personal conversations.
“I don’t know what to do with him,” says media blogger Lucinda Denise of her 13-year-old. “He hasn’t touched his laptop and writes me little paper notes instead of email!”
First casualty of this new ‘hippie’ movement is Facebook, the number one student networking portal. Faced with ever declining profiles and ad revenues, the domain will be permanently closed next week.
This new generation of trend setters has been dubbed ‘Generation Z’ – for ‘zero’ – which is their reaction to anything hi-tech and synthetic. Even China industry is falling as the teens plump for handmade sandals and knitted sweaters over cheap T-shirts and sneakers.
Some analysts think this is the ‘analogue bullet’ needed to reverse the seemingly endless digitization of lifestyles and de-humanization of mankind:
“The planet’s resources could even make a comeback as conspicuous consumption declines, though we will eventually run out of organic materials if this trend takes over completely.”
But like all rebellions, this one will probably have its own counter-revolution, with even greater adoption of technology and virtualization of everything – by their own offspring.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
2006: Everything’s going digital
Take Park Hyun-a, a 21-year-old student at Korea University in Seoul. The way Park uses her Samsung mobile phone is really intriguing. Each day she waves it over a reader at a turnstile in the train station to pay her fare. Then, during the long ride to school, she flips open the screen and rotates it 90 degrees to watch satellite TV. On the same screen, Park pages through an e-book version of the latest bestseller. She sends more than 60 text messages a day, snaps pictures of cute guys and sends them to friends, and plays an online game in which she runs a virtual fruit store. “I can hardly think of my life without my handset,” Park says.
A lot of us feel the same way. Whole industries are reconfiguring themselves to keep feeding the smartphone addiction. Cellular service providers and phone makers have begun moving to faster networks, including something new called WiMAX, which is like Wi-Fi on steroids. This transition accelerates in 2007, unleashing a flood of innovative mobile gadgets and services, like those enjoyed by Park Hyun-a and her friends, that stretches the definition of wireless as we knew it.
Half of all teens in Singapore aged 15 to 19 are on the Internet, blogging or podcasting, and this figure is set to grow.
Today’s teens and young adults can hardly function without their phones, blogs and social networks – all virtual of course. But there’s a rebellion afoot.
2010: The Next Generation
Generation X and Y were characterized by conspicuous consumption, hyper-tech and virtual reality. ‘Work hard, play hard’, excessive lifestyles and extreme sports were commonplace in the early 21st Century. As was every imaginable gadget, networked appliance, and even virtual worlds, with fictitious residents.
But the Green revolution has more than eco-responsibility as a consequence. The more mature adults got the message: “We have seen the enemy, and it is us!” Eco-friendly and organic lifestyles are at odds with electronic wizardry and virtualization of every aspect of the average consumer’s life. Even as technology and innovation promise solutions to the energy crisis and climate change, there is a new respect emerging for the planet and nature.
The children silently absorb this message, and gradually form a bond with the earth, nature and all living things. Computers, phones and electronic gadgets are not alive, just toys. Useful diversions, but ultimately of little genuine value, or so it seems.
2015: Awakening of the spirit
The Age of Aquarius finally dawns. The new age of awareness, of appreciation for nature, history, and the inter-connectedness of the global biosphere takes hold. Transparent information, made possible by the web and wireless technology, spawns a world-wide population of thinking, feeling beings.
No longer are we satisfied with money, goods and convenience. Spirituality, art, humanity and understanding become valued interests and pursuits.
New Agers believe that ultimately every interpersonal relationship has the potential to be a helpful experience in terms of our own growth. We learn about ourselves through our relationships with other people by getting to see what we need to work on ourselves and what strengths we bring to the other party in order to help them in their life.
Science and technology are seen as beneficial where they can enhance relationships and lead to understanding, but electronics and gadgetry for purely commercial gain debase the human spirit.
2020: Rejecting the digital life
Technophobia takes a new twist. Instead of being scared of technology, the youngsters are becoming too cool to use it. It’s no longer hip to be digital, but it’s super-cool to be retro. After all, this techno-junk chews up the environment, and you can’t tell someone’s real emotions from looking at their avatar, can you?
After a number of suicides in Japan, when teenagers’ avatars are ‘rejected’ by members of the opposite sex in Second Life, the desire to be virtual in order to ‘get real’ reverses. Now the in-thing is to get down and get dirty, in the real organic sense. Flowers and grass, man, that’s really cool! And vegetarian food and real face-to-face conversations. Poetry and emotion – that’s human.
“When all the trees are gone, you can’t eat your phone,” says one teenage sage.
Kids dump their phones and won’t use laptops. As for bio-chips and RF-ID, no way! The ‘net, so much a part of our everyday life, actually starts to sag, as activity declines. Of course the adults are still caught up in the byte race, constantly staring at screens and pushing buttons, but the young ones know better. MySpace and Google still have an avid following, but Facebook lives on student users, and soon withers.
If this carries on much longer, we’ll have to bring back cash! Or is that beads?