This month Facebook turned 10 years old (Oremus, 2014). Our daily lives are now filled with retweets, trending topics and likes. I think everyone can acknowledge the ground-shifting, wave-making changes social media has wrought on personal interactions, social connectivity, journalism and marketing. This week PBS aired “Frontline: Generation Like” (2014), which explored the invasiveness of the social media marketing world that is captivating teens to an extent where they are becoming willing players in viral marketing campaigns, gaining attention and building their own celebrity brands.
Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff explored social media as a tool of empowerment for teens to gain a voice in a cluttered online world (2014). Teens are finding their voices through engaging with marketing campaigns – whether liking Oreo on Facebook or gaming their way to top fan status for Hunger Games: Catching Fire teens are playing into the hands of marketers amplifying strategic promotions (Koughan & Rushkoff, 2014). One marketer, Bonin Bough, likened this proliferation of marketing engagement, as “the biggest change we have had in communicating with consumers in our lifetime – to stand on the sideline is not an option” (Koughan & Rushkoff, 2014). Rushkoff (2014) noted, “this is where the currency of likes turns into actual currency.”
However, “Generation Like” only scraped the surface of the psychological motivations for the social media addiction of the youngest members of the Millennials. They are responding to the basic teen needs of attention, self-empowerment and validation (Koughan & Rushkoff, 2014). But, the scope is so much bigger – and viral. “Generation Like” is responding to the pervasive celebrity commodity culture, which has developed with reality television and the need for fame. The teens that have reached large social media audiences are content with accepting sponsorships and schilling for corporate brands to attain celebrity status and perks.
The celebration of celebrity has created a generation seeking only fame for fame’s sake. In fact, two of the tweens interviewed started in social media to share their respective talents – skateboarding and singing. However, once they secured a following, they simply had to “be” to be liked, praised and grow their “brands”. Their social media connections become their “fans” and the sponsorships they receive are aligned with their “celebrity” status. This concept was only amplified by the inability for teens to define what “selling out” means.
I don’t know about you, but this is one Millennial that felt really old watching this documentary.
Koughan, F. (Producer/Writer), & Rushkoff, D. (Producer/Writer/Correspondent). (2014, February 18). Generation Like [Television series episode]. Frontline. Boston, MA: WGBH.
Oremus, W. (2014, February 3). Facebook was born 10 years ago. Here’s what it looked like. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/02/03/facebook_10th_anniversary_social_network_turns_10_looks_back_at_its_history.html