Tuesday, September 11, 2012

KQED Forum: The Cheapest Generation

Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissman from the Atlantic magazine appeared on KQED Forum this morning.  Topic was how the new Millennial generation is fundamentally changing our culture of consumption.  Products and services like Zipcars and smartphones propelled by more social sharing than ownership are making it easier to rent than own, especially when it comes to cars.

The most interesting comment was this idea of how cars are being replaced by smartphones.  Car was not just a means of transportation.  It had been a symbol of adulthood, social status and freedom.  Now smartphone is in some sense replacing car as social platform to share experiences for the Millennial generation.

It used to be unthinkable to think of going out on a date without a car.
Now going out anywhere without a smartphone is unthinkable.
Never mind the car, we'll hop on a Muni bus but we've got our iPhones.

This phenomenon has external factors such as economic reality of younger generation staying longer in school, not finding jobs as easily, and graduating with bigger student debts.  But it is also true that there have been structural changes like explosion of smartphones, constant connectivity, and rise of shared economy.

This is an interesting observation.  I also see the Millennials around me preferring to live in the city than suburbs, deciding to delay starting family, choosing to rent rather than own and staying connected with friends via social media.  Idea of renting cars is no longer considered as a sign of immaturity but having a different spending priority than earlier generations.

What used to be hangouts with friends that revolved around car is now staying connected on Facebook and Twitter using your iPhone or Android smartphone.  Instead of living in far-flung suburban places where it's difficult to get together, new generation prefers to live close to each other in the city where they can meet up at a cafe down the street.  Rather than expressing their identities through car ownership, younger generation is choosing to express themselves by whom they follow and what value they aspire to.

Perhaps we can chalk this up to environmentally positive effects of social media.

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