Looking at Millennial Metaphors #3: CONNECTION

I share therefore I am’ is a connection mantra of millennials.   Humans are a social species with an evolutionary history of relying on social connections both to survive and to give meaning to life. The CONNECTION metaphor speaks to this human imperative and makes it one of the ‘giants’.  We begin with a look at connection as it relates to identity.

The connection metaphor is fundamentally about emotional and physical attachments, our connection with and isolation from ourselves, others and things. Language that conveys the metaphor often centers on the physicality captured by such expressions as ‘getting in touch with your feelings ‘, ‘we are miles apart in our thinking’ or ‘she felt very near to him’.  In fact, the sensory metaphor of touch embodies connection.  

Connection to our inner self facilitates personal growth.   According to Sherry Turkle in her compelling book, ’Reclaiming Conversation’, that requires solitude. Solitude is a foreign and undesirable state for millennials who have grown up digitally and are the most connected of generations. They travel through life with mobiles as constant companions, actively turning away from solitude. Constant sharing of day-to-day experiences is second nature to the generation that gave birth to the ‘selfie’. Sharing has replaced self-reflection just as digitally connecting with texts, tweets or pictures has replaced conversation.

Our metaphor study on what it means to live wirelessly underlines the importance of deeply understanding connection.  Millennials spoke of their desire to ‘take flight’ or free themselves from life’s restrictions.   This ultimate state of ‘disconnection’ is what mobile technology facilitates.  With mobiles in hand they feel empowered to become their ‘best selves’.  One millennial likened himself to a chameleon because his mobile relationship allows him to present himself as the unique creature he aspires to be. With such power literally ‘in hand’, it is no wonder many millennials sleep with mobiles and experience ’disconnection anxiety’ when connectivity breaks down.

Connection and what it means to millennials is important for brand builders and product architects to fully understand. Companies would do well to pay attention to ‘the connected lives millennials want to lead’ not just what is technologically possible.  Deeply understanding connection as it relates to identity and self awareness is a great place to start.

Our next blog will continue to look at CONNECTION and tap into millennials’ need for affiliation.