opinion

The Mobile Generation: Gen X vs. Millennials

The Mobile Generation: Gen X vs. Millennials

My generation is the last generation to have grown up without the internet and mobile technology. Now, over 66 percent of the traffic bought and sold through my advertising network JuicyAds comes from mobile phones. I remember years ago, before we even had mobile device targeting, most of us did not see a future of people watching porn on small screens. And screens have gotten notably larger since then, with mobile truly dominating the web. However, if you’re targeting Millennials (born early 1980s to late 1990s) more than Gen X types (born mid 1960s to early 1980s), don’t assume the younger crowd is more addicted to their phones than the rest of us.

Mind you, one day, my daughter will ask what a landline was (and I will have to explain how “a long time ago” we didn’t even call it a landline ... we called it a telephone). By that time, the very concept of having to “dial in” to a BBS on the phone line with a 1200 baud modem connected to a 286 IBM clone, rather than the “always on” fiber optics for internet access, will seem like the Stone Age (actually, that one already feels like I grew up in a cave). It’s like the first generation after the Industrial Revolution, World War II or the invention of the airplane. The world will never be the same and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Reaching the peak device usage age correlates with higher earnings, growing families and more responsibilities at work. We are the most connected, because we have to be.

When it comes to raising a toddler, you’ll find advice coming from every direction with all kinds of contradicting information. The “experts” say kids shouldn’t have any screen time until after the age of two. Then, there are studies suggesting that devices like your mobile phone, tablet and the like can be used to reduce pain because of the dopamine release. In fact, exposing kids to devices early apparently completely rewires their little brains. Just look at how we are addicted to our phones and you’ll recognize it right away. Imagine someone who has never known a life before those notification alerts.

It’s easy to start thinking “these damn teenagers these days on their phones ... texting, snapping, gaming and tweeting at the President.” I mean, you may have heard that police arrested a teenager who broke into a home and actually woke the sleeping occupants to ask them for their Wi-Fi password. Earlier in the evening, the same teen was spotted on a stolen bicycle soliciting other neighbors to access their Wi-Fi networks as well. Later, the teen claimed his data had run out. Maybe he was in the middle of lining up one hot Tinder date, who knows? It’s safe to say “burglary for Wi-Fi” is pretty rare and probably best labeled under “stranger than fiction.” Are youth really that addicted to their phones, to resort to crime just to get their next data fix? The anecdotal evidence points to a clear answer of “yes,” but once again, the data does not point to it.

Like so many other assumptions, there is nothing worse than the things we believe to be true that just aren’t. Its not the young people these days that are addicted to their phones. It’s Generation X! Nielson (yes, the company best known for television ratings) collected data that shows a counter-intuitive result. Americans aged 35 to 49 spend more time on social media than those 18 to 34, and spend an extraordinary amount of time on email. Facebook is famously concerned with adoption rates of youth as well. After all, they have to compete with that new social network gaining more and more popularity as people strive to break their digital addictions — it’s called “real life.”

The silver lining is that middle-aged people are better at avoiding texting while driving. Perhaps we understand that it can wait, or maybe just understand better the art of the red light text. Even that can get you in trouble these days as police are using texting records during investigations to uncover if you were using your phone at all while driving. Hence, red light texts are often illegal.

Logically, it makes sense that the youth have lower rates of usage. Their young life is full of limitations. Most apps are out of bounds for anyone under the age of 13. Even passing that age barrier, there are other hurdles to usage like school, teachers and parents. Then, of course, there’s college and entering the workforce … not a lot of spare time until later in life. Reaching the peak device usage age correlates with higher earnings, growing families and more responsibilities at work. We are the most connected, because we have to be. Case in point: I wrote this whole article exclusively from the plane on my Samsung S6. I’m sure everyone on the plane thinks I’m sexting up a storm with my wife.

If you’re targeting mobile devices for your campaigns here at JuicyAds or elsewhere without using age demographics, then you can probably use this intel to assume you’re reaching the majority of people aged 35 to 49.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what’s more jarring ... realizing that everything we think about the mobile habits of the new generation is wrong, or the realization that I’m now middle-aged. I know ... I’ll go share my nostalgia about “the good old days” on Facebook. That’ll make me feel better.

Juicy Jay is the CEO and founder of JuicyAds, the Sexy Advertising Network. You can follow Jay on Twitter @juicyads, visit JuicyAds.com or like on Facebook.com/juicyads.

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