Let me let you in on a little pet peeve of mine: Rushing the end of summer. You know who is the most guilty of this? You are. Yeah, sure, marketers want to get in front of customers early and often and that’s totally cool, but talking about back to school in July is a little too much. But it gets worse. My local grocery store has end-caps up for Halloween. In August. Seriously, can we ratchet things down a little and let summer roll on at its normal lazy pace?
These are just two examples of the world being forced forward far faster than it needs to be. The always on, always connected, always going world that exists today is accelerating life in ways that a growing number of teens are balking at, looking instead for a slower and simpler pace.
My own teenage daughter and many of her friends, like other teens, have started asking for flip phones to replace smartphones. Vinyl albums and classic iPods are seeing renewed interest from teens as they embrace retro tech and a more deliberate approach to life. Not everything needs to be delivered immediately all the time. It turns out it’s okay to wait a little.
This isn’t to say that teens are a bunch of luddites that are turning their backs on modern technology. Far from it. Teens love and rely on technology but, unlike those of us for whom technology was something that sprang up all around us in amazing and wonderful ways, Gen Z has had technology at their fingertips since birth so perhaps they’re better positioned to consider it objectively. That means they are questioning some of the assumptions related to time and technology.
As with all generations, teens display two opposing ideas when it comes to the world around them. First is a questioning (if not outright rejection) of the life their parents have crafted for them. The second is a nostalgia for a past before their time or memory. It’s a strange thing to see the teens I interact with mixing and matching elements of ’80s culture when it comes to music and fashion with modern sensibilities when it comes to race, gender and sexual orientation. Strange and wonderful at the same time.
Teens want the world on their terms and, increasingly, their terms include a slower pace.
Some of the slow-downs take tech out of the mix all together. Print publications and live events are both seeing strong interest from teens but each have new twists. Magazines, for example, are looking to deliver their first issues faster, but still only as fast as the USPS can deliver. Events, always perfect for social media, are starting to see performers demanding that phones be put away and content not be shared. Slowing down and enjoying the moment has value and appeal to today’s teens.
Marketers, for the most part, have missed the memo. A premium is placed on speed, innovation and on-demand. When someone shifts down a little, though, interest can go up. Look at Pokemon Go, a retro-based game that runs at a walking pace. While the initial excitement has waned, the game demonstrated that slow and simple can be satisfying and successful.
Maybe it’s time for everyone to stop, look around and take a deep breath. Let the summer unfold at its own leisurely pace. Let Halloween be a part of the fall rather than the dog days of August. Let smartphones be swapped for flip phones if that’s going to make teens happier. I know that I’d be happy slowing things down just a little myself and I’d be surprised if a lot of other people — of all ages — didn’t feel that way, too.