When we focus on millennials, we’re focusing on a generation that is at an age more influenced by the effects of the media, is able to easily access any and all information, is knowledgeable when it comes to using technology to access media, and knows how to adapt to any changes or “updates” in the way media is consumed.
Always connected and simultaneously disconnected
Millennials literally keep the internet at their fingertips 90% of the day. They are always connected to the world through social media, applications and digital news. And, as much as this is can be a good thing if utilised properly (in other words for watching more than just cat videos, laughing at the latest memes or finding the perfect GIF to send in reply to a message), it’s hardly ever used to its greatest potential.
And it’s because of this constant connection that they may be missing out on the element of real human interaction. Obviously, they aren’t completely void of all human contact, but there is a disconnection between the real world and them and relationships suffer as a result. Reality also becomes merely a potential subject for documentation across media and the sentimental meaning isn’t always appreciated.
Influenced by influencers and youtube sensations
Influencers are the new “citizen journalists” of mass media. Millennials talking to millennials, but with millions of likes, shares and followers behind their name as credibility. The difference from traditional journalists is that they don’t actually provide extremely informed or useful information.
Beauty, fitness and “just for laughs” influencers are taking over the internet and it’s problematic. Millennials, as followers, can become incredibly invested in what an influencer has to say or by what they do.
Recently, a Youtube-vlogger sensation, Logan Paul, uploaded a controversial vlog of himself in the “Suicide Forest” in Japan where he came across the body of a suicide victim and went on to laugh and mock the situation. If that is not ethically, morally and just-plain-right messed up enough, he is an influencer with 15 million subscribers (majority of who are young teenagers). This video received over six million views before it was removed from Youtube and he eventually posted an apology video that shot his subscribers up by 80 000 and many forgave him at that moment. The apology has been deemed, by most, insincere and self-centred as he still chose to make money off it.
The problem with everyone having the ability to post and influence people all around the world is that there are hardly any filters in place to protect young and gullible minds. Millennials look up to these kinds of people because of their sphere of influence and relatability. Influencers promote the message of “you can do anything” without always considering individualisation and exactly who their audience is.
And with people like Logan Paul, they don’t always think further about their content than “subscribers”, “views” and making as much money as they can out of a post.
Underestimate the power of mass media
Following the way influencers influence millennials, it’s right to say that some millennials underestimate the power of mass media. Everything has the ability to go viral if it’s posted by the right people, at the right time and on the right platform. And the reality is that it only takes a few good seconds for something to be posted and shared globally.
There is no room for making mistakes and saying something you didn’t mean. A post requires thought, editing, coming up with a caption and an upload time – more than enough moments for you to take back what you’re about to say and stop yourself from hurting the lives of the people who aren’t following you for a reason.
Millennials both do and don’t understand the power of a share, a subscribe and a view. They know that by watching a controversial video they don’t support, but are curious to watch because of the hype, they’re putting money in the pocket of the person they don’t support and giving that person the attention that they’re looking for.
What can be done
It’s not all millennials’ fault though. Many honestly don’t seem to know any better and it really is easier to follow your friends and like what they like. It’s ironic that the millennial generation has so many strong views and support a variety of causes, but are also so quick to follow a trend and believe so strongly in the internet and its users.
Something as simple as including media studies in schools and university degrees (it really is something that can be applied to almost all fields), may just give them a better idea on the manipulations that mass media uses to gain traction and be newsworthy. Parents also need to teach their children to not be oblivious to the messages behind certain content (like what almost every pop song on the radio is really singing about) and to be aware of their online presence and actions.
Be the better millennial and learn about the world of mass media.