Listen up: What a 29-year-old agency strategist thinks of the new millennial mind
- Research from youth publishers have revealed millennials are crying more and laughing less as lockdown continues
- Over 20% of 18-34s have been stood down or are out of work, with women making up the majority
- As boredom sets in, content that provides an alternative avenue for human interaction piques interest
- Junkee is reporting an 80% increase in traffic, while Pedestrian sees content consumption rates up 50%
- Dating isn’t dead - On March 21, Tinder AU recorded the highest spikes in downloads all year, while 70% of Hinge users have expressed interest in digital dates during the pandemic
- Nielsen Digital Content Ratings data show that millennials (25 -39) are driving the increases in time spent on financial news and Information websites with an increase of 102% (March 2020 versus January 2020)
- Millennials spent a total of 690,308 hours on such content in March 2020
I set off to university the year the global financial crisis hit in 2008 with dire warnings of widespread job insecurity, rising house prices and unmanageable debt levels ringing in my ears. Miraculously, I managed to hit some ‘life milestones’ early. Thanks to a combination of hard work and good luck, I graduated at 20, bought a flat at 21, and was engaged at 25. But in 2016, it all came tumbling down when a quarter-life crisis knocked me spectacularly off-course. My ten-year relationship ended, and I moved to Sydney, began renting a one-bedroom flat and tried to navigate a dating scene I didn’t understand. Never one to cope with uncertainty well, I wanted to see what I could learn from my millennial cohort as we live through a new era of “unprecedented change.”
Research highlights from youth media experts, Junkee and Pedestrian, had the unsettling sense of someone reading my diary out loud. Wild mood-swings oscillating from joy at saving money to fear the economy will never recover? Check. Increasing time spent on news websites interrupted by mindless scrolling of memes that made me nostalgic for a simpler time? Check. Splurging on self-care products, like the perfect cinnamon-scroll baking tray or online coding courses? Check. Money became something I thought about only occasionally to occupying most of my waking thoughts. Without an income, how long could I afford to pay my rent?
Millennials have been credited as the generation who stopped capitalism in its tracks, the cohort who choose to spend their hard-earned cash on experiences rather than material goods. While it’s true that travel, festivals and tasting menus continue to be a regular choice for where we invest our disposable income, materialism is more entrenched than ever. In 1967, participants were asked “what’s important to you in life” and less than half flagged “being well off” as the priority. By 2005, it was over 70%. But it turns out even if we do earn big, income and life satisfaction correlates at just 0.1. Once we get to a certain income bracket, our happiness actually begins to go down.
So, if money really doesn’t make us happy, why do we continue to chase it? One potential explanation lies in neuroscience and the fascinating discovery that our minds consistently fail to use reasonable reference points. In the 1960s, our social circle was much smaller than it is today, formed by geography rather than interests. While we knew our car wasn’t as fancy as Mr Jones’ down the road, we didn’t have 338 virtual ‘friends’ on hand to measure up against. Brands have continued to target millennials and the emerging Generation Z as their most important growth audience, but with 24% of under 35’s now officially out of work, does that still make sense?
Many millennials have already accepted that, as the first generation set to be worse off than their parents, marriage, homeownership and parenthood are optional detours rather than the final destination. As a generation who have begun rejecting the life milestones set by our parents and grandparents, it will be interesting to see what the new normal looks like. If we accept, we may never have as much money or security as we would like, does time become our most valuable resource? And if so, how have we responded to having much more of it on our plate? I would hazard a guess that many of us are finding new excuses for not doing the things we thought we wanted “if we only had the time.”