Millennials’ adoption of technology has dominated discussions as they become more reliant and engrained in new technologies and digital skills. According to the Telefónica Global Millennial Survey launch earlier this year, 75 percent of Millennials feel they are on the “cutting edge” of technology and spend an average of six hours online a day. David Burstein—a Millennial, a filmmaker and author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World—participated in a Q&A session with Telefónica to discuss how Millennials are changing the world and using technology to do so.
Q: The Telefónica Global Millennial Survey found that Millennials view technology as a catalyst for change and opportunity. How do you think these perceptions have shaped the way Millennials interact with the world around them?
Burstein: Because of technology, people are able to have all kinds of interactions and relationships that they’ve never had before. I view the relationship between technology and Millennials as being like two good friends who grew up together. There’s a strong symbiotic relationship between technology and this generation, because had it not been for this generation, tools like Google, Facebook and Twitter would never have become as successful as they are today. We are the people who understand how to use [new technologies] the best and we are the ones who have seamlessly integrated them into every aspect of our lives.
While writing my book, people told me that overwhelmingly, technology made them closer to their friends, that they felt more connected, and that it has also given rise to this whole new sense of community that we didn’t have before. It used to be that your community was entirely defined by where you grew up, or where you went to school. But today, people define their communities not by who lives near them, but by ideas. We can now create these new, vibrant communities of ideas and conversations with people we’ve never met thanks to technology.
Q: According to the Global Millennial Survey, a majority (68 percent) believe they have an opportunity to be an entrepreneur in their country. How can we collectively empower Millennials to achieve this goal?
Burstein: I think that we’re actually in a pretty good place when it comes to creating that opportunity for young people. It’s never been easier than it is today for a young person to start their own business because a lot of the barriers to entry have been removed. Now, for the first time, we have role models to look to, internationally-known role models who are not just actors or musicians or athletes, but people like Mark Zuckerberg—people who are our peers and creators of companies and businesses. We just need to think more comprehensively about how we empower Millennials to think entrepreneurially and be entrepreneurial.
Q: In the Introduction to your book, Fast Future, you discuss some of the cultural revolutions which have taken place, bringing about radical change to America. What do you think is the next cultural revolution that we can expect from today’s Millennials?
Burstein: I think we have a long way to go in this current revolution that is not just cultural—it’s political, it’s social, it’s educational. Every industry is being totally reshaped from the way we know it and Millennials are playing a big part in that.
I think one of the biggest cultural challenges Millennials are facing is this moment of intergenerational understanding. We do have the best of the old world and the new world combined in the way that we look at the world and how we want to approach change. There are still a lot of people in this world who have a different view of reality. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generation look at our feeling of empowerment—we believe we can walk in a room and give an idea, speak to powerful people, and put ourselves out there–as a sense of entitlement. I think the different generations need to work together to blend such views.
Q: Do you think, with the autonomy that technology and the Internet allows Millennials to have, that this group is going to become a more self-sufficient generation?
Burstein: Yes, I think we’re already seeing that. People are now looking at ways they can crowdsource problems and ideas. They’re putting a lot of power and trust in online communities and in their peers – peers that they know and peers they don’t know. When you look at how a person in this generation interacts with the world today as opposed to someone 20 years ago at our age, it’s much more self-sufficient. It’s much more reliant on tools that we can all access and that we can all find easily—we don’t really need other people to tell us about them.
This applies to your career and overall growth, too. When you look at how you can move up the chain, the skills that you need are relatively few. It’s really about the resources, connections and being able to see beyond your local community. The Internet and technology in general provide the ability to do that. We should be bringing the tools in front of more people and showing them what they can do beyond their immediate practical purposes. Exposing people to new content, new ideas is important because we have a generation of people who, pretty soon, will have 100% mobile penetration and Internet access and the ability to consume information and ideas at an unprecedented rate.
This is one post in a series by Millennials who feel emboldened to share their perspectives on the Telefónica Global Millennial Survey, their generation and the world they live in today. To have your say or take part in the discussion, please send an email to Paul.Fabretti@o2.com or leave a comment.