Column: The age of the millennials

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Chiara Ferraro and rapper Action Bronson in Manhattan, two good examples of the ever quirky, unique, talented world of the millennials. (Photo by Tom Ferraro)

 

I recently gave a talk at Fusion Academy, the local high school in Woodbury that specializes in the education of the uniquely gifted student. As part of my presentation Allyson Schwartz asked me to touch upon the personality of the so called “millennials”, that group of kids born since 1980.


It’s always fun to research a new subject and I began by asking my patients and the kids in my neighborhood. One of the brighter ones told me something that really got me attention. He was 16 years old and when I asked him to describe his generation without pause he said “We’re really pretty simple to describe.

The heroes of your generation were Elvis Presley and The Beatles. The hero of my generation is PewDiePie. Maybe that will help you to understand us a little better.”
But I had never heard of this PewDiePie and thus began my journey into the mid of the millennial.
Let us begin with the question of whether he was correct in suggesting that PewDiePie has the cultural reach of an Elvis Presley or The Beatles.

I looked up PewDiePie on YouTube and it appears that he has over 60 million followers. Yes 60 million followers. He has nearly three times as many followers as either Taylor Swift or Rihanna.

This guy has global reach. He is a 28 year old Swede and makes a fast $15,000,000 per year with ads and endorsements. Yet I have never heard of him and doubt that you have either.
My next step was to watch some of his videos all of which have such riveting appeal to the younger generation. He produces one video weekly and each episode is about five minutes in length and is watched by anywhere from 30 to 45 million kids around the globe.
The majority of his utube shows consist of watching him play one of the latest video games like Super Mario, Donkey Kong or Call of Duty and giving off the cuff reviews of how tough or easy they are to play.

He will add a few expletives, some shrieks and shouts of frustration along the way. That’s it. Kind of like a Jay Leno for young people but without guests and with the only subject being that of video games and how it feels to play them.
Now that’s not a bad gig. It appears that his overhead is minimal. He does all the camera work, the editing and the dialogue by himself. Indeed, this is one clever young entrepreneur.
I think the most noteworthy reason for his astounding success is that he found a subject that kids are in love with. Video Games. It is obvious to us all that teenagers are addicted to the internet and to video games.

We are all familiar with the sight of a teenager looking down at his or her cell phone and observing something of great magical interest.

Research tells us that people are plugged into some form of media for about 8 hours each day with internet use rising and TV, cinema and newspaper use on the decline.
Researchers have labeled the millennials Generation Y or the Peter Pan Generation since they tend to show no signs of growing up, wanting to get married nor do they embrace a career.

They have been variously described as narcissistic, entitled, over indulged and not civic minded. They are also described as open minded, liberal, upbeat and individualistic. The group most often used in these studies are white middle class kids.
It is ironic that our youtube super star PewDiePie has been raised in a decidedly upper class home. His real name is Felix Arvid Kjellberg and both parents are high powered CEO’s in Sweden. He may be a millennial but with a definite head start.
I do think its unfortunate that millennials get so much bad press. Who could blame them for hiding inside the world of video games and like Peter Pan not wanting to grow up?

They have inherited the world we have given them. This world of ours is characterized as one whereby adults have grown weary with overwork, have flattened wages, see a growing disparity between the middle and the upper classes and all have deep fear that we will fall into debt and social shame.
In “Tale of Two Cities Dickens” wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” So it is today. This is an age of wonderment with young entrepreneurs figuring out how to make money by offering up color commentary on what it feels like to play Super Mario. Bravo to PewDiePie, this youngster with 60 million followers.

He somehow managed to make millions based upon offering up funny reviews of mindless time wasting video games. I am tempted to call this generation the Twinkie Generation given their tendency to ingest such malnourishing emptiness.
But alas on the other hand we can call all this the beauty and the marvel of youth.

A whole life ahead of them and plenty of time to hang out and play some video games. What could be more fun? Hey pass the Doritos. Does anyone have an extra copy of Donkey Kong handy?

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