They Grew Up on Instagram

As a millennial, I am used to being talked down to by older generations. My generation had and has many perceived weaknesses. One of those weaknesses is an addiction to our phones. I think this is a real weakness, but is by no means exclusive to our generation.

Cue Gen Z. This is a generation so addicted to their phones, they supposedly have no real-world skills. They don’t understand the difference between the virtual world and real world, and will have no skills to contribute to the economy by the time they reach a working age. Or so we were told.

What happened after the tragedy in Parkland has flipped a lot of that on its head. The day after the shooting, students looked straight into CNN’s cameras and spoke eloquently and directly to those that hold power in our country. At first, skeptics said it was like outcries for change following previous tragedies. But this time felt, and still feels, different. The actual victims of previous massacres haven’t been so direct in their response. Also, never before had victims of a tragedy seemed so prepared to lead a movement.

I don’t think this is an aberration or even a coincidence. Instagram and Snapchat are designed to make us feel like celebrities. We pose for the camera, select the picture that will most impress our followers, and we send it out into the world. Then…we get feedback. From the likes and comments we receive, we determine the best time of day to post, the best subject matter, and the best filters to use. To those that know social media the best – those that grew up on it – the lessons run deeper. They learn how to pose, how to engage the camera, the best facial expressions to use, the best way to posture. When I was entering the real world, we called these presentation and interpersonal skills.

It struck me about a month after the tragedy in Parkland that the students always seemed so poised in front of the camera. They know how to interact with all forms of media, social and otherwise. It is very clear that this generation understands how to navigate the complex world we live in today, which has been exacerbated by social media. Older generations have scoffed that high schoolers only know how to communicate through tweets and snaps. Guess what, those teens engaged a US Senator face-to-face on national television. It was clear that they weren’t fighting fair. Rubio was engaged in a game of the past, they were playing by the new rules. Just because they are effective on Twitter, doesn’t mean they can’t communicate effectively in person too.

Gen Z possesses skills for the world that is coming. Whether they possess all the skills society needs for them to move the world forward is something that we will only learn with time. All I know is that the brief glimpse we have gotten into the future through the actions of students from Parkland has me feeling better about the future than I have in a long time.

Final Four on Cable

I was surprised on Saturday night to find that the Final Four was airing on TBS, rather than CBS as it has for most of my life. As a cord cutter with access to a login to get me TBS, this did not prevent me from watching the Final Four. I imagine that it did for many in the cord cutting generation, especially those for whom the Final Four is not particularly important.

I suspect that this recent channel switch is driven by cable companies. They either believe that the Final Four is a big enough event that people would find a way to watch on TBS; or cable companies are trying to migrate tent-pole events to cable stations, in an effort to stem the tide of cord cutting. After all, we are already accustomed to the NCAA Championship in football being aired on ESPN, why not have a similar arrangement with basketball?

I understand the motivations of TBS and its fellow basic cable friends. They need these kinds of events to ensure they solidify a place in our lives. They seem to be throwing enough money at the NCAA to let them air one of its pinnacle events on a station that not all that many of us pay for anymore.

This is very shortsighted from the NCAA’s standpoint. While CBS/TBS is probably paying them handsomely today, they risk losing an entire generation of fans. Surely, many Villanova students asked their parents for a log in on Saturday night, but what about the casual sports fans? Young people have plenty of entertainment options today – especially on a Saturday night – and it is likely that for many casual fans and non-fans, the Final Four will stop being a part of their lives. The ratings were unsurprisingly down from the 2017 Final Four, which aired on CBS. This is despite a Final Four consisting of a remarkable cinderella story featuring Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean, two number one seeds, and one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in Michigan.

The network executives that decided to air the games on TBS are probably ok with the drop off in ratings. It likely fits their broader strategy of TBS emerging as a place for quality sporting events to live. However, the NCAA needs to make sure they are not hurting their brand. For Americans over the age of 25, the Final Four is undoubtedly must-see television. March Madness is an American holiday on par with Thanksgiving. This used to be true of the World Series, now the average baseball fan is 53 years old. That is not a lucrative advertising market, and is further compounded by a decrease in interest of children to play baseball. The NCAA has enough problems on their plate, they don’t need to further complicate matters by ostracizing younger generations by airing the Final Four on a network none of them subscribe to.