Is there a Millennial Bubble?

You may not have heard of the YouTuber, Logan Paul, who has over 15 million subscribers and 16 million followers on Instagram (LoganPaul). But it’s a safe bet that most millennials know of the self-described “goofy dude with BIG goals”.

The 22-year-old American vlogger has made a name for himself doing crazy stunts and creating daily video logs that have made him not only popular, but quite wealthy. That’s all been put on-hold with his recent decision to upload a video which contained controversial footage of a suspected suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest. This crossed the line for many, resulting in a swift backlash from viewers, media and even YouTube. The video was eventually taken down within 24 hours and Logan apologized (a few times), but not before it had gained more than 6 million views worldwide.

“I didn’t do it for the views, I get views. I did it because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity” Logan wrote in defense. A petition protesting YouTube’s handling of the issue and a petition with over 500,000 people demanding that they delete Paul from the channel, is one of the many developments. Logan has said that he has taken time-off from social media to reflect. An interesting language choice, “reflect”, a word that is worth analyzing in our modern GenX world of high-tech.

I often wonder how Logan’s generation find the time and the space for reflection now that digital communication has revolutionized human social interaction, from the home, to the office, to the classroom. The exponential popularity of social media has seen virtual communities using accessible, affordable tech - smart phones, laptops and iPads for hours every day. It drives our lives and our economy.

At Republic Bank technology has allowed us to offer our customers, faster, more efficient, secure and accessible financial services, from e-banking to global credit card transactions. Being a leading international financial group with affiliates across the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, technology has enhanced the way we communicate with staff and customers alike. And our clients welcome each opportunity to save time and money in their increasingly fast-paced lives.

For millennials, those echo boomers born around the 1980s to early 2000s, the power to immediately access financial accounts, download movies, videos and photos and in turn respond in real time through e-commerce and social media apps from Snapchat and WhatsApp to Instagram, Twitter and YouTube – reflection is not always a priority. Computer mediated technology has opened the world of information while creating a more isolated, selective interactive experience at the same time.

Growing up in Trinidad in the 1970s and 80s, there was TTT, not cable television, NETFLIX nor Amazon, but a TV that “signed off” at noon and started up again around 4pm. This left more time for riding bikes, playing in the river, flying kites, climbing trees, pitching marbles, bowling a Googley, reading, being bored, reflecting. The TV shows were enjoyed loudly and with the family, many included documentaries and of course the local news. Or libraries were stocked with classics that gave a grounding, a literary canon that may have been more skewed to European literature, but was grounded in universal themes. At the same time, banking hours were limited, access to quick cash and internet banking non-existent; telephone communication was through a landline and for us kids, knowing that when the street lights came on it was time to get back home for dinner.

Today, an undeniable benefit is that we have an opportunity to tell our story, our way, we have scores of critically acclaimed, locally produced films, music, screenplays and of course literature. The rapid development of the local creative industry, with for example, film production becoming more affordable and accessible, has successfully allowed us to create a genuine narrative from stories being produced for the big and small screen. But are these quality programmes being watched by the younger generation? Who’s managing their content, helping them to understand the universal truths being shared? They are being given the power to be the programmers, producers, editors – they watch and play video games on smaller screens, in a solitary, singular dimension. But are they also being given enough opportunity for reflection? Is there a need for greater balance, censorship?

Recently, former US President Barack Obama was asked by David Letterman on the series ‘My Next Guest’, about social media, its effect on the recent Presidential election in the US and the ‘hypothetical” impact of foreign governments on the process. Obama spoke about his reliance during the 2007/8 campaign on millennials, 22 and 23-year-old staffers who went out and spread the word exclusively on social media and built an historic, successful campaign.

Barack Obama:
“So I had a very optimistic feeling about it. And I think what we missed, was the degree to which people who are in power, people with special interests, foreign governments etc. can, in fact manipulate that…

David Letterman:
“And propagandize…”

Barack Obama:
“And propagandize.”

So, in some cases there is the “bubble” effect where these algorithms on your mobile may, in fact, re-inforce your views and perhaps your Facebook news feed may become more censured, less inclusive, leading to a closing in of perspective and bias, rather than a broadening of dialogue and discussion. It’s a true dichotomy, an irony that we all live and need to manage. So is it that by opening the flood gates, we may be creating more disconnected islands rather than continents, which, as we know as Caribbean people, can come with their own challenges and opportunities? The answer to this question will require some reflection on our parts as well.

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