The Millennial Complex

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ver this past weekend, I finally watched the critically acclaimed and award-winning movie, Her. I know I’m probably about a year late to the party, but a busy college student doesn’t always have time to keep up with the newest and most popular movies. So, this past weekend I figured, with papers to write and tests to study for, I should cut out a few hours and finally watch what was described to me as “very original”, “creepy”, and “something that would give me a lot to think about.”

And a lot to think about is exactly what the movie gave me. Basically, here’s the story: a man buys a new Operating System (OS) that is completely personalized to his likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, and relationship styles. As a lonely recently divorced man, he chooses to give his OS a woman’s voice and quickly, the relationship between man and computer turns into something much more serious – a relationship between man and “woman.” Creepy, right? Well, to make matters even weirder, any time that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is out in public, everyone else around him is also entranced, talking to their own OS, so it basically looks like everyone is talking to themselves and not each other.

At first, I laughed a little at the fact that everyone looked like they were talking to themselves and not to each other. I even asked a few friends, “How crazy would it be if that’s what the world actually turned into?” And then I realized…that is what the world has turned into.

I cannot count the amount of times I choose to look down at my phone in a crowd, rather than meeting new people or talking to a stranger – and I know I’m not the only one that opts out of face-to-face interaction in those situations. Maybe – just maybe – we are turning into this new sort of generation of people: a generation that would rather look at their phones than at their friends, one that would rather text their parents than go see them in person, and, maybe, one that would rather fall in love with a non-human machine than a real person.

Which begs the questions, in a technologically driven age, which manner of communication creates a more impactful relationship, the virtual or the in-person? Are our relationships now based on convenience rather than meaningful connections? These questions have led, marketing managers, PR teams, and advertisers to create marketing schemes and advertisements that are more targeted to personal social media sites and online search engines, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and Yahoo. Traditional advertising is geared towards inciting emotion towards your product, i.e. fear, love, hate, dependency, etc. By transferring marketing to personal social media sites and search engines, it is eliminating the guesswork of targeted advertising based on perceived emotion.

The growth of social media sites, Vine, Tinder, Instagram, etc., reinforces the notion that millennials interact with brands and companies through personal social sites rather than hard advertising (billboards, buses, etc.). Trust in products and advertising is based on what their friends are saying and online trends, rather than brand loyalty that is derived from lasting relationships. Millennials are only loyal customers, as long as the product is trending. Mobile-compliance, easy-to-navigate websites, blogs, and social media accounts are very important to this new generation – as important, if not more, as the brand conveying its values and morals as a company they can “trust.” Shifts in advertising from newspapers and billboards to digital marketing are a direct result of technology and online communication being so accessible and easy to use. This shift has caused many Americans, to look down at their phones, rather than up at the world.

I truly hope we never turn into a population of lonely, bored, people that have no interpersonal, face-to-face communication skills. Online and virtual communication is crucial to the world that we are living in now, and the success of brands and companies is largely dependent upon their digital footprint. However, when it comes to maintaining and building strong lasting relationship, we must remember that face-to-face communication is the way to go. We all have so much to say, opinions to be heard, and voices that are able to carry out those messages. So, while Her was a very interesting concept for a movie, I hope it stays on the big screen.

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