Today’s Youth and Social Media

If you are a regular follower of this sponsorship marketing commentary, you know my feelings about smart phones and etiquette. You know how I feel about being in social media “just because you have to be there.” And you know how I feel about metrics for measuring success with social media.

But social media and ongoing change are here to stay. In fact, seven out of 10 people in the world have a mobile subscription. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of Internet users exploded from 408 million to 1.2 billion. We saw the power of social media to influence social and political movements from the election of the Mayor of Calgary, who harnessed the power of social media, to protesters and uprisings in Molovia, Iran, Tunisia, and other places.

Thirty-nine percent of Canadians aged 18-24 got their news online according to Marketing Magazine’s study. That is more than TV and radio combined and over four times more than through newspapers. Fifty-seven percent of Canadian post-secondary students have downloaded at least one app and 35% have posted pictures of clothing they want to buy via social media. And almost one in four says online shopping is far more convenient than going to a store.  This same group ranked the best sources for new trends and information. The top three were: 1) from friends and family (and most likely online because we know this generation does not talk face- to-face), 2) directly from retailers while shopping, and 3) from retailer web sites.

That brings me to the comment above about this present generation not talking face-to-face. I listen to people all the time. They say things like, “I was at the mall the other day and four youths were sitting at a table in the food court. They were all texting. No one spoke a word. They were communicating with each other, and rather than speak, they texted.” Or I hear, “My kids never talk, they just do Facebook and social media.” Or I can say that I have been in meetings where people text and are online during the meeting versus being part of the conversation. I am sure this is upsetting to many of you. It is to me—well sort of.

Yes, it bothers me immensely. But I must learn to accept it. Social media and digital marketing are critical parts of our lives today. This is clearly evident in sponsorship marketing campaigns and activations. It can be extremely effective both budget and outcome-wise. As I will discuss next week, it can be measured. It is an important part of the mix for any marketing or sponsorship marketing plan. I have come to accept that, and have actually embraced it—and love it. It is creative, experiential, and ground breaking.

But the discussion continues about “this generation” versus “my generation” and the way we do things. Over the past several months, I have had this conversation with many people. Finally, I have come to accept that today’s generation, with its failure to communicate face-to-face is no different than we and our grandparents with the “technology” of the day. I hear parents and employers complain every day about how the members of the next generation are in big trouble because they will have no social skills to communicate one-on-one with others or a group, other than through a text. But when I think about it, how different is this from the introduction of television?

When the first TVs came out, people called them “idiot boxes.” Some still do. The older generation could not see why anyone would sit around a box and watch it when they could listen to the radio (the “old technology”) and interact with each other. This “TV thing” would hinder our imaginations and take away our desire to communicate. Prior to TV, with the advent of radio, our forefathers could not understand why anyone would sit and listen to the radio when they could talk. This “radio thing” would kill our social skills and conversational abilities.

Here we are in 2012. We claim that we communicate very well today… it is those kids with mobile devices that are in trouble. Guess what? We survived the radio and the TV… we will also survive the mobile device. We of the older generation need to understand that the advent of TV was no different in our parent’s eyes than we feel about the mobile device. Rather than fight it, argue about it, and shun it, perhaps we should embrace it and see how we can use it to our advantage to interact with the next generation.

These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

Brent Barootes


  1. The internet and social media has been bringing my family together across the globe for years.

    My cousin and his girlfriend travelled to Japan for a year; while they were there he filmed and edited videos that he shared on Facebook. As a family, we all got to share the experience, which cumulated when he proposed to her on top of Mt Fiji.

    Now that I live across the country from my family, Social Media is by far the biggest way we stay in touch. I can share all of my experiences and adventures with my family and friends, and they share theirs with me. It’s more important then even now that the family is growing and I live for the new photos of my niece shared on Facebook.

    As my mom puts it, Facebook is better then a baby monitor, and it still works when your child is 28.

    • Hi Janet,
      Thank you for your reply. It’s amazing to hear about, and experience, the extent to which social media can play in our society. So great to hear that it’s helping to keep your family in touch with one another regardless of where you all are!


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