We all know that social media has turbo charged our connections to each other and the conversations we have, this is particularly prevalent when you think of Gen C. The last few weeks I’ve been talking to quite a few 16-21yr olds here in Sydney about their ‘digital life’ and what’s become more and more obvious, is this concept of ‘WannaME’.
WannaMe (a rip off of an Aussie slang word, Wannabe), is when young people build digital personas on Facebook and other social networking sites which show the absolute best parts of their lives. Call it Facebragging, showing off, call it what you will. It’s all about how they meticulously craft their online personas to share with the world, i order to ensure they pass judgement from other members of their tribe.It’s about creating the best version of yourself – as we all know perception equals reality.
Belonging to a tribe is and always will be a primal need for youth, but now we’re seeing youth needing to constantly upload pics, show that they’ve been invited to the right parties/concerts, be seen wearing the right clothes, hanging with the right crowd. It’s all a part of their desperate need to fit in and this competitive pressure to be in the know is overwhelming alot of young people I spoke to. It’s like the 1980’s ‘cool kids’ phenomena all over again, where you were either in or out based on how you dressed. Now it’s just dimensionalised in real time.
When you talk to these teens, you realise that the pics they’re uploading from music festivals, parties, make up about 10% of their life, but on facebook, it looks like they are uber social, connected and little party animals. One guy I spoke to even said he pulls out old pics from last summer and posts them if he doesnt have anything good to contribute to the conversations happening. So they are re-using old versions of their social life to ‘keep up with the Jones’ if you will.
The WannaME culture that has been charged by social technology has definitely also made youth more extroverted. What was unacceptable to share with friends is now completely acceptable, and Aussie kids are trying to one up each other on facebook. Boys are uploading pics of them doing risque sporting tricks eg: jumping off a bridge illegally, whereas girls are being more and more provocative with how much flesh they show. Psychologists talk about the need to highlight the ‘social risk’ in communications when you’re trying to change a certain ingrained behaviour eg: drinking driving, smoking, drug taking etc. Now it seems that this social risk is being celebrated online.
WannaME culture is permeating through pretty much all youth subcultures, it’s not just the rich urban indie kids, it’s across the board. More than ever young people are carefully crafting their digital personas and brands need to understand this mindset in order to engage with them. Thoughts?