The Selfie

Josh Comrie's selfie

We all know Generation X (my lot), Generation Y/Millennials/Echo Generation (1980-2000, those who, oddly enough are unable to make up their name or mind), but what is the next generation called?

I've heard Generation Z, the Next Generation, the Net Generation, but none has captured it for me until very recently. I now know exactly what to call them.

I am writing this while attending a conference in Singapore. Jetlag has me up pre-dawn, exercised and sneaking in a quick swim. This whole time I've observed four people taking photos of themselves - the selfie I understand it’s called. Not 1-2 photos mind, but a solid 15 minutes of multiple angles, backdrops, poses; the whole damn works. All of these folk were early 20's, and it got me thinking. We (Generation X) wouldn't have done that. We're too busy working, socialising or sleeping off a hangover. Plus we didn't have camera's but that’s beside the point.

At one of the conference sessions, I came across the moniker I'd been missing:

"The Selfie". Voila. Boom. Awesome. #SelfieGeneration

So there are a lot of great things about this generation.

  • They're digitally native - they actually grew up with cellphones, digital cameras and other such modern trickery. They get how it works, what it’s for, and can take amazingly cool self-portraits.
  • They're socially aware and conscious. I don't know how well this will translate into action rather than just talk. They'll need to get out from in front of the mirror to change the world for good.
  • Given their heritage, racial and sexual diversity, they're incredibly accepting and non-judgemental about other people.

Of course, there’s some challenges with the Selfie Generation. It’s the favourite radio station of the generation - WiiFM - what’s in it for me? They're incredibly self-obsessed and appear to the likes of me, to be very needy. If you're in this age bracket and about to start abusing me online (of course that’s where you do it), calm down as I'm generalising. But I might, just maybe, be talking about you...

If you're part of my mob, or Gen-X, you'll probably need to start hiring some of this demographic soon. Given their marked differences, you'll need a strategy for handling them. Here's mine:

  1. Be very clear about finding out what they want. You'll probably need to seed some things, they're not used to talking to humans - they prefer txtspk (aka text speak).
  2. Explain what’s in it for them - if it’s a rubbish task, they need to understand why they need to do it. Not for the company, but them.
  3. Make stuff fun through gamification. Create competitions, measure and provide feedback on performance. Regularly.

I never advocate the ‘many changing for the few’ (unless I'm the few), but unless you want your company to wither and die, you're going to need some of these kids on your team soon! I'm off to ask one of these kids what’s the best angle for a selfie.