‘Status Update Stress’ (SUS) – an emerging issue for global youth

Will Status Update Stress 'SUS' become an epidemic amongst youth?

The past few weeks I’ve been chatting to a handful of UTS uni students about their ‘Facebook’ lives and the pressures they face to constantly ‘craft the right update for their social networks.

As we know FB and other social platforms have brought youth closer together and turbo charged their connections. However, I believe teens & 20 somethings in Australia (and no doubt in other countries) are becomingly increasingly anxious about their status updates and the need to ‘perform’.  The need for peer approval on social networks is a major pressure for teens. Forget sexual performance anxiety, how you interact and update on Facebook/Twitter is far more critical.  Teens are now judged by what and how often they share content, ideas and opinions.

Teens today aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for an admirer to ring, they’re constantly refreshing Facebook on their mobile waiting for someone to ‘like’ a post or pic or better still ‘tag me in a cool pic, cos then I don’t look vain’.

Whilst FB and other social networking platforms have fuelled their self expression, given them a voice and grown their friendship base  so to speak, there’s always a shadow to a new behaviour.

Youth today have begun to suffer from ‘status update stress’ or SUS. On Facebook and now Google + their lives are on show and it is an extremely competitive space where every status update is scrutinised, judged. As these teens put it:

“Constantly trying to make your status update interesting is really hard work..I just want to tell people what I’m up to but now I feel this pressure to always write something cool or witty…”

“Facebook used to be just about checking out party pics, tagging and all that..now you’ve got to be constantly posting cool stuff, otherwise people will think you’re boring and got nothing to say…”

“I often spend 5 minutes thinking about a clever or cool post that will get me noticed on my friends news feed..it’s like trying to stand out at school…you gotta stand out on FB by what you say or share…you gotta be ahead of the game…”

There is clearly an undercurrent of anxiousness as teens go about their day thinking about their status updates. Crafting your online identity is hard work, harder work than looking cool it would seem.  If they don’t make the right update they can be cyber bullied or even chastised by their peers. Worse still some teens are reverting to lying on Facebook to try and fit in. This is called the ‘facebook fake’ (lying about checking in at a party and getting found out) and if found out can be social suicide.

I believe many teens are now becoming anxious about how they interact with their social graph, and in some instances (for more introverted kids) fleeing social networking platforms altogether. It will be interesting to see if Google + ‘circles’ overcomes these issues as teens may feel they have less pressure on them as they update within certain ‘circles’ or communities.

The flow on effect of SUS is that many teens may start fleeing social networking platforms and this is an even bigger fear for teens as it means being ‘out of circulation’ and losing their social standing within their tribes.

It will be interesting to see the psychological effect the need for teens to constantly share their lives with the world and the resulting pressures and competitiveness that comes with that, especially as their friendship groups spread beyond their proximity based school, uni or neighbourhood friends.

 

 

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Youth Influencer Interview – Dion Appel CEO of Lifelounge Group

This is probably the most insightful interview I’ve been able to get from an absolute influencer in youth culture in Australia. Dion Appel lives and breathes youth culture. He has to. He’s the CEO, Co-founder of  Lifelounge Group

Dion Appel, CEO Lifelounge.com

Dion Appel, CEO Lifelounge.com

, Australia’s leading digital resource on youth culture – fashion, music, sports..you name it, they cover it. He also runs Lifelounge Urban Market Research (UMR), Australia’s biggest youth market research panel. I was lucky enough to get some perspective on what brands need to do to get ‘cultural infusion’ ( new buzz word 🙂

Tells us a little about why you set up Lifelounge Group  and its role for Aussie youth?

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Having said that James Diver and I were playing poker at a casino in Las Vegas.

The idea was to combine our passions and expertise to create a unique business proposition for brands: offer an understanding of and access to the youth market in a credible and relevant way. My background was in business; managing and marketing action sports athletes. James and his business partner Luke Lucas were professional athletes and magazine publishers. Together we identified a market opportunity to apply our creative and commercial expertise and contacts to position brands relevantly amongst the youth, young adult and lifestyle markets.

What are the 3 biggest trends that you think are influencing Aussie youth at the moment?‘Boycotting the bogan’ – events once only popular amongst those in the know have now reached the mainstream. This may be lining the back pockets of event producers but we have reached saturation point. The mainstream doesn’t hold the same core values to those who made events important destinations in the first instance. 

 

There is a move towards going underground, creating unique party experiences that leverage the values festivals were once built on.

‘Flesh messaging’ – all forms of digital communications are no longer new, they are mass. There is a lack of control over how and who we communicate with. Technology should be treated as an enabler, it shouldn’t dictate how communication is conducted.

There is a growing preference for face-to-face communications i.e. meaningful contact and conversation.

‘Extreme transport’ – Cycling is now a massive trend in urban cities within Australia. It has already splintered into sub-cultures with the ‘discovery’ of fixies for the road, not the track. This trend is expected to continue with the introduction of government funding for new bike tracks and communal bike sharing initiatives. Not to forget it’s good for the image, cheap to do and good for the environment win-win-win. 

In a world where labels offer little exclusivity, bikes are the new form of branding.

 How would you describe Australian youth culture in a word? Explain?CONSIDERED – Australian youth are deliberate and calculated. Don’t underestimate them.

 

They’re very careful about how they perceive themselves and how they want others to perceive them. It’s all part of a need and desire to express themselves and ultimately define their identity. During the defining years (18-24) they are more open for trial and new experiences and tend to be less loyal. Once they have defined their identity (25-29) they are more likely to become loyal and flaunt independence. 

Is there such a thing as ‘global youth’?Absolutely, we don’t log onto the Australia Wide Web we log onto the World Wide Web. Access to technology and travel have made borders disappear, seas seem like puddles and the ability to learn new languages a worthy inclusion on the CV.

 

Are there any youth subcultures which are really popular or emerging in 09?For some time we have been tracking subcultures that emerge from core lifestyle interests I.e. Music, fashion, entertainment and sport however, more recently we’re tracking subcultures that relate to emerging trends such as fixies within cycling within sport.

 

What do brands need to know about young Aussies?Brands spend considerable resources defining themselves, their essence, personality and image in order to connect more relevantly with desired audiences. We can draw a number of similarities in the way young adults seek to establish and define themselves.

 

Brands need to be real, honest and brave enough to share experiences through conversations with young adults. With a solid foundation and relationship based on shared values the sky’s the limit. Challenge the status quo and use the power media channels to connect relevantly. 

 Alot of brands these days do ‘co-creation’ – getting young people to co-create their ads/events/products? What’s your POV on this?
Young adults are dubbed the creative class because they are digital natives however, in reality they like to have everything done for them.  Having said that if brands provide the tools for creativity then young adults are more likely to respond. There are a number of case studies that support co-creation from government agencies like the Transport Accident Commission’ Make a Film Make A Difference initiative to Red Bull’s Art of the Can competition. 

Which brands do you think ‘get’ youth marketing and why? Explain

Virgin – Has a strong reputation for trading on a unique attitude with personality. Congratulations Richard Branson on finding a way to commercialise your lifestyle and make your mark on everything the brand does. Virgin’s entrepreneurial approach to business has enabled the brand to cross into varying industries and maintain a consistent tone.  

 American Apparel – Because they keep their message clear and simple. They don’t broadcast but are smart about the way they advertise enabling the market to discover and make their own minds up about the brand. My first encounter was in New York when the shop assistant told me how good my family jewels would look in a particular style of underwear; I looked up and her necklace spelt the word ‘SLUT’ 

 Lucas Paw Paw Lip Balm – This product oozes quality and makes no mistake about it. The product has effectively achieved cultural infusion particularly with females through word of mouth and very little traditional advertising.

Influencer Interview #1: Meet Tracy from Cosmo & the Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Tracy (left) believes Australian youth are all about CHOICE

Tracy (left) believes Australian youth are all about CHOICE

    

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting Tracy, who is works at Cosmopolitan magazine, she totally has her finger on the pulse in terms of youth culture, and in particular what’s going on with 18-24yr old Australian girls/women. She’s also a key member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition so is really making a big difference when it comes to what’s important to youth. I got her perspective on youth culture and what’s up with young Australian women J

 How do you keep abreast of youth culture?

 Music, blogs, movies, magazines– all of these things, and from all over the world not just here in Australia because access to pop culture is so global.

 

  How would you describe youth culture right now in a word?

 ‘CHOICE’- young people have never had as many options in every aspect of their lives as they do right now.  Youth culture is about using this power of choice for self-expression and self-creation.  Young people want to feel as if they are always being given this power of choice, and like they have complete control over the decisions that they make.  Everything needs to be personalised and interactive so that there is that opportunity to constantly make one’s own decisions.    

What do you think are the main issues facing young Australian girls?

Issues like body image and self-esteem are still huge, and I think increasingly the issue of finding the perfect career has become important to young Australian girls.  Because careers are now supposed to be fulfilling and empowering as well as a way to make a living, young women are pressured earlier and harder to find success in a career that is both monetarily and personally rewarding.  Women are increasingly told that they need to find part of their identity in work, which is great in theory but not always easy. 

 

Environmental issues are also becoming huge among youth both in Australia and around the world, because young people are realising that they will be the ones who need to deal with and fix the problems that have been created by their parents’ generations.  I am part of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which aims to educate young Australians about climate change and inspire them to take action.  I think environmentalism will be a growing part of a youth culture.  

 

 What do you think are the main/popular sub-cultures 18-24yr old girls belong to? 

I don’t think 18-24 year old girls prefer to identify themselves as members of any one sub-culture.  They prefer to see themselves as individuals, making their own decisions and developing their own personas rather than adopting all of the traits of a defined subculture.   Youth today want to be multi-dimensional, and have the ability to be so.  They also want to be the ones setting the trends rather than just following them by identifying themselves as a member of a subculture. 

Which brands do you think are best connecting with young Australian girls and why?

Technology brands that manage to be both stylish and quality connect well with young Australian girls– increasingly, technology is both a necessity and an accessory for young girls so brands that can capitalise on this have the opportunity to get young girls to buy their products and, maybe more importantly, start talking about them.  Word of mouth is important for most if not all demographics, but I think particularly important among young girls who trust what their friends say more than almost anything else.  Sony,  Nokia and Apple have all done a great job in making desirable products and marketing them in the right environments.  

 

Who are the heroes for young Australians today?

 Heroes for young Australians really have been pop culture figures– actors, musicians, etc– in recent years.  The media obsession with celebrities has equated fame with heroism for young Australians.  However, world events may affect this in the near future.  The development of President Obama as a heroic figure for young Americans shows that someone in politics or public service with enough charisma can become a hero as much as any pop star.   

 

 

Rise of the Recessionista

How will the recession affect global youth spending behaviour? Everyone always talks about young people being free spending, loading up the credit cards with huge debts etc. They’ve been the ‘I WANT IT WHATEVER IT COSTS’ generation. I believe we will see the rise of the ‘Recessionista’ in the coming months as Aussie youth adjust their spending behaviour. It will all be about maintaining their appearance, but doing it for less and wanting more brand experience along the way. Remember, they have the power with all these brands competing for their attention. So instead of buying Diesel or Nudie jeans they will be settling for Industrie. Instead of buying Grey Goose, they’ll settle for Stolichnaya. We’ll also see them becoming ‘hybrid dressers’ as they combine luxury brands with the cheap and nasty. So teens running around with Prada glasses and a pair of Dunlop Volleys. I believe global youth are ‘striving to be more’ as opposed to striving to have more, so brands that help them achieve will win. Value in the eyes of young people won’t just be perceived as a price equation, it’s all about the quality, cultural capital (social currency) that brand gives them as well as brand utility that is provided. The youth brands who focus purely on price will shoot themselves in the foot. The brands who create more perceived value via interesting brand experiences and giving kids shit to talk about will kill it.