It’s a Teen Cultural Revolution

If you’re a young person, somewhere between the ages of 13 and 18, you’re currently involved in the first great cultural revolution of the 21st Century.

You may not be aware of it, but you are helping to redefine how we communicate and socialize. You are inventing new ways to share thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ideas.

In a way, much as your hippie grandparents did to sexuality way back in the 1960s, you are turning the totality of social interaction on its head.

You almost certainly have a Facebook profile, and you maintain it regularly. This is an essential method for maintaining your personal relationships.

You probably have a second profile on Windows Live, where you engage with a different set of friends apart from your Facebook milieu. This is less important to you. In a way, it’s a social sandbox, where you can explore alternative versions of yourself.

It’s unlikely that you tweet, and it’s quite possible that you don’t even know what I’m referring to by that remark. But that’s okay, because the Twitter social model doesn’t jive with your mindset.

You more than likely have a mobile phone which you treasure more than pretty much any other possession. It is your lifeline, indeed your lifeblood. You maintain your most important and personal social dialogues through your mobile phone by sending hundreds of text messages every day.

You make plans, joke, flirt, shout, cry, and seek solace by text. And you’re always texting because, remarkably, you can even do it undetected in class.

You probably asked someone out on a first date using your mobile phone. You probably dumped your first boyfriend by text message. Maybe you dump them all that way.

You probably take your mobile phone to bed with you. Most nights you fall asleep to the glow of its screen.

There a distinct chance that your first sexual experience was had on your mobile phone. Maybe you sent someone a provocative photo of yourself. More likely, you texted dirty with your girlfriend.

You have an emotional bond with your mobile phone, and you experience extreme stress when it’s not in your possession.

Your mobile phone sets you free. Or at least that’s what you think. Because it’s also your anchor.

The teenage years are an important period for establishing independence from your parents.

Previous generations worked at defining personal identity in isolation, away from familial influence.

No more. Your mobile phone promises a steady line of communication with your folks. And not only are they repeatedly interrupting your life with phone calls and texts, but you are also homing in on them for emotional gratification, support, and feedback.

Where once a teen like you may have bought a new pair of shoes in spite of your parents’ tastes, you now vet your mom’s input via MMS.

As a result of this, combined with your tendency to multitask your social communications, you are having difficulty cultivating a true sense of self.

At any given moment, you’re probably simultaneously engaged in an IM session on Facebook, several text discourses on your mobile, and a face-to-face chat with your mom. In each of those communication environments you’re maintaining a different mindset, probably even a different personality.

Psychologists are starting to worry that many of you are developing split personality disorders.

And as a result of this impaired sense of identity, you are prime fodder for consumer marketing messages.

You may pride yourself in being impregnable to such messaging but, in fact, a consumer mindset is key to engaging in the new world you are helping create.

After all, consumer goods such as computers and mobile phones are absolutely essential for you to communicate. Not only are they technically required, but the sort of devices you select to use contribute to your sense of identity.

In other words, consumerism is the superstructure in which the new cultural environment you are building exists. Marketers recognize that this leaves you sensitive to their messaging. Beware.

And keep in mind that, as the old cliché goes, you are the future. Older generations are already feeling excluded from this strange new world you inhabit and one day you will use it to govern, build businesses, sell goods, and generally run the world.

Make sure you let the old folks in.

Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, June 26, 2009.