Tradable skills, foam clouds and mobile voting polls: Or why young people rule the world

It never ceases to amaze me how much flak young people get for being, well, young (especially those in the hip hop generation). But when it comes to selling them stuff, the powers that be are quick to turn a blind eye on the criticism and pay attention to the numbers (young people spend $250 billion a year on products in the U.S.). Something is definitely happening with young people. Something always has been. But it seems that what young people are doing is having a bigger influence these days. Here are some reasons why this is so in 2009.


The current recession has hit everyone hard, especially young people who are either starting out in the job market or trying to maneuver their way through it. Instead of throwing tea parties, however, young people are adapting to the changing economy through good ol’ fashioned bartering and trading, according to The Cassandra Report from The Intelligence Group. Spending a few hours designing a website in exchange for cooking lessons or trading yard work for babysitting time are some of the examples cited in the report. This is being called skills swapping. Young people have also found a new economy in pawn shops, which are being called the new banks, or things like it where you can get fast cash for trading in something else (sometimes a service).

Head in the clouds

A peace sign by Flogos.

A peace sign by Flogos.

The Cassandra Report also noted that another trend to look out for in the near future is marketing with foam clouds. Flogos started this trend by developing a machine that makes images and sends them up into the sky. The idea is inspired by and targeted to young people. I wonder what would happen if news was distributed this way?

Going mobile

Harris Interactive puts out this newsletter every month called Trends and Tudes. In an issue released earlier this year titled “Keep Up if You Can: Teens Are Taking Cellular Use to New Levels,” the researchers made some interesting observations about young people and their use of mobile technology. Here’s an example of some trends young people could be on to:

If they were able to text their order to a restaurant, 57% of teens say they would do so at least some of the time. Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) of this generation would like to be able to translate any language instantly on their cell phone and three-fourths (74%) think having an emergency transmitter on their cell phone would be useful.

Another poignant observation made in the report was that, while adults consider larger screens and longer battery life must-haves for mobile technology in the future, young people would like to see mobile devices in the future being used to allow them to vote.

Liberal or Conservative: Does it matter anymore?

This thought comes from me, but it’s related. Young people are often criticized or ignored when it comes to voting. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in politics. Supposedly, the New Conservatives are young people who “don’t have the luxury of idealism that even the youth of the 1980s had. Due to the overwhelming glut of information on the Internet and an unprecedented barrage of marketing, these young people are more aware and more cynical than any generation that came before,” according to an article that appeared in The American Conservative magazine in 2003.

On the flip side of the political spectrum, it seems as though being part of the New Left is still popular. Going to Cal, you could see this 1960s civil-rights consciousness in the spirit of the students who organized rallies on Sproul Plaza.

I would argue that young people who are uninterested in the polarization that has spread throughout American politics will lead the charge for a new discourse: a type of politics that embraces both liberalism and conservatism. I think Chris Rock said it best when he said that he was conservative about some things (crime, for instance) and liberal about others (i.e. prostitution [a joke, obviously, but the point is still clear]), and that should be OK.

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