Why Are Millennials Creating All This Content?
“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” — Leo Burnett
In a strictly observational sense, ours is a society obsessed with self indulgence and self obsession. I attribute this narcissism due to our passion for publishing content about ourselves. I am a millennial, we are a content creating generation and are the most prolific content creating generation to have been seen thus far. With avenues like Instagram and Snapchat we create stories, snaps, pictures, videos and post it for the world to see. Using social networks like Facebook , Twitter and Reddit ( sorry Reddit, you are kind of like a social network ), we are posting links, photos, experiences, news articles, memes and gifs for the world to see. On YouTube, Vimeo and other video sharing websites, we are seeing a new generation of content rockstars like Casey Neistat and PewDiePie. With Medium, PostHaven, WordPress and other blog outlets, we are enunciating our thoughts at rates never seen before. The content deluge is continuous and at times overwhelming for all people concerned.
To give you a sense of how much content is being created regularly, here are some numbers I scraped off the interwebs ; for every minute —
- Email users send 204,000,000 messages
- 3,567,850 text messages are sent
- Google receives over 4,000,000 search queries
- Snapchat users watch 6,944,444 videos
- Uber passengers take 694 rides
- Google translates 69,500,000 words
- Blog writers post 1400 new blog posts
- Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content
- Facebook users like 4,166,667 times
- Twitter users tweet 347,222 times
- Netflix subscribers stream 86,805 hours of video
- Amazon makes $83,000 in online sales
- Tinder users swipe 972,222 times
- Whats App users share 347,222 photos
- Instagram users post 216,000 new photos
- Instagram users like 2,430,555 times
- Pandora users listen to 61,141 hours of music
- Apple users download 48,000 apps
- Yelp users post 26,380 reviews
- Skype users connect for 23,300 hours
- Vine users share 8,333 videos
- Pinterest users pin 3,472 images
- Youtube users upload 300 hours of video
This is in one. single. minute. Let that sink in. Lest you get too comfortable with that, here is an infographic of how much data we end up creating each year —
Source : http://bit.ly/2h4QPjq
Perhaps the above infographic is a bit misleading because its not just the content we are creating on social media but also the data being generated by companies, governments; the whole enchilada. When I read statistics of this content barrage, it gives me the same sense of amazement I get when I read about something like this — some of whose highlights include numbers like the Amazon River pumps out enough water each day to provide New York City’s water needs for nine years or that the Amazon forest releases 20 billion tonnes of moisture into the atmosphere every day, equivalent to 8,000,000 swimming pools! I digress but what cannot be denied is the sheer volume of data cascading into our lives each and every minute of each and every day. Let us for a moment think about the people who are creating this content. In particular, user generated content- the content people create willingly and put it up for the world to see. I am a content creator at this very moment with this Medium article, so I want to delve into reasons why my fellow content creators and I go through the trouble of generating original and personal content. Since there are different content networks targeting wildly different human behaviors, I will try to go into the rabbit hole keeping in mind 3 networks —
Facebook — Due to a large user base and being “the” definitive social network of our era
Snapchat — New kid on the block (for all intents and purposes ) that upended the status quo established by Facebook by approaching sharing with a different perspective
Medium — The stomping grounds of ideologues or at least the perception that most writers have of their craft and form of delivery. By making “blog” writing cool again and achieving discoverability to a wider audience, Medium has changed the way people consume articles and news in the recent modern world. The first reason that jumps to mind is self-expression. Everyone wants to feel distinct and have experiences that are fundamentally unique. YOLO or ‘You Only Live Once’ used to be the latent anthem of all adventures. I mean if you only live once, you gotta live your best life; and while you live your best life why not showcase the best experiences to your friends and family. This is partially responsible for the meteoric rise of content networks like Facebook, Instagram and the likes. Prior to this ( discounting MySpace here ) there was no way to broadcast your activities to a wide audience. Tales of such adventures would spread either via word of mouth or by passing photos to friends and family you’d meet.
Then there is this term “FOMO”. YOLO is so 2000's. FOMO or “Fear Of Missing Out” is the negative counterpart of YOLO. While YOLO looks to live life on a high, FOMO encourages doubt and uncertainty. Typical millennials. To explain by analogy — by posting your YOLO content, you might be brewing FOMO in someone else and when it is that person’s chance to YOLO, it could create FOMO in someone else. At first glance, this might seem confusing or plain stupid, but if you were to scratch the surface, you might get a better picture of the human psyche. Some people might argue with this, but the yearning to achieve more and do more, coupled with a sense of greed and avarice is the a pretty crucial factor in the engine propagating the growth of social behaviors; as well as consequently, usage patterns of social networks.
With Medium, its fundamentally the same thing but with a different outcome in mind. Here, the objective is not to bedazzle people in a short time span with your extravagant adventures but instead, do the same thing with your wits and thoughts. It cannot be disputed that millennials and consequently Gen Z’ers are losing attention far more quickly than before as is evidenced by the infographic below-
In addition, 47% of consumers expect a web page to be loaded in under 2 seconds. We will go past a link/page if it takes more than TWO SECONDS! In such an age of dwindling attention spans, it is no surprise that Medium gravitated to announcing upfront how long articles take to read. It quickly weeds people who will stay away from longer articles while attracts people to short, quick reads. The fact that there is a platform where people can publish thoughtful content that can be made available to a multitude of people is truly a great value proposition. But herein lies the crux of all social network behavior. For Medium, it is “Recommends”, for Instagram it is “Hearts”, for Facebook it is “Likes”, for Snapchat it is “Views”. This is the holy grail of all human behavior on social networks. It is the quest to achieve the highest discoverability as possible. Getting your content seen by as many people as possible is a HUGE driver of all content being posted. For some people it might be the amount of content consumers within their private ( closed-off ) network while for others it is across a broader spectrum of public users ( open to all ). I am no scientist but the rush that people seem to get from seeing their content viewed/appreciated by as many people as possible is akin to the high you feel from having a good workout at the gym or doing something truly fulfilling. It is also very much like a sugar high in that, after having achieved a certain number of ‘likes’ the first time, the only way to satiate appetite is to exceed your views/likes the following time. There is some research here, here and here which tries to explain why we gravitate towards this kind of behavior. This can be a maniacal cycle and lead to an obsession around statistics of a certain content publication. People who publish their content constantly check their apps/website profiles to see if the number of people appreciating their posts or following them, is increasing. I am not pretending to be above this phenomenon and have definitely fallen prey to this. It is this feeling of being appreciated by others ( strangers or otherwise ) and having a chip on the shoulder of highest likes/recommends/hearts/retweets that, in my opinion, is the main reason for the continued success of social networks. In all likelihood, we might not see a reduction in content-creation any time soon and most probably will only see an uptick in the next few years. However, it is important to remember to use these content platforms as a force for good and to not let stats on likes and followers get in the way of focusing on the most important things in our lives.
"Our current obsession with creativity is the result of our continued striving for immortality in an era when most people no longer believe in an after-life." Ariana Huffington