As the first generation to grow up with an Internet, and since the advent of the Internet- enabled smartphone in 2007, Millennials have grown accustomed to and indeed are beginning to expect life to be mobile and untethered, with 24/7 instant access to friends, family, work, media and information. For these “digital natives,” behaviors, expectations, values and norms orbit around life online. This immersion in digital technologies has resulted in major behavioral, social and economic changes, not the least of which includes disconnecting from activities normative for other generations: Home ownership is being eschewed, marriages are put off; having children is being delayed or forgone altogether. Entirely new business models are emerging like the “sharing economy,” where companies like Uber and AirBnb disrupt long-standing businesses like hotel chains and taxis. Older businesses who aren’t reacting to this changing zeitgeist, including the changing tastes, values and expectations of their customers, are facing serious losses or are failing altogether. The digital interface is even displacing many of work and leisure activities of previous generations– playing an instrument, practicing a sport, building things, driving, socializing face to face with others, and even showing up for work in an office. Connections to long-standing organizing and foundational social structures in society like the church and political parties are weakened or broken altogether. These are just a few case examples, but taken together, like the tip of the iceberg, they serve as indicates of a much larger shift underway which has significant material consequences.
I spend my time thinking about these changes – and writing, speaking and posting about them. I’m writing a book on this topic now, to be completed early 2016.