How The Next Generation Is Shaping Digital In Its Own Image

15/12/2016 16:41 GMT | Updated 16/12/2016 11:49 GMT

The relationship between technology and human behaviour has always been at the core of everything we do at Amaze.

Our fascination with understanding our digital world led us, in 2011, to ask one simple question; if you were to track a group of young people for several years, would you be able to see the impact of technology upon them? Would it change them? And if so, how?

Today's 'digital natives' are one of the first generations to have grown up in a world where every aspect of their communication, entertainment, social activity, private and school lives are entwined with technology. Five years ago we set out on a unique study, following a group of 10-15 year olds on an up close and personal journey through their digital lives.

We joined them as they explored the digital world. We watched as they took their first steps in the world of social media. We observed how five years' immersion in changing technology has influenced, enabled or limited their choices as they embark on the next stage of their lives. And we discovered how technology and the internet are shaping their behaviours and attitudes, and how they, in turn, are changing society.

The story of this 'Amaze Generation's' journey since 2011 has been one of growing maturity, matched by a developing understanding of the cause and effect of technology on their lives.

At the outset of the study, we posited the notion that the rapid evolution of technology could make this the first generation to find its behaviour shaped by digital.

In reality, however, what we have observed over the past five years is that digital and technology are not really shaping behaviours. The Amaze Generation are the ones shaping digital in their own image.

The key findings can be summarised as follows:

1. Fragmented identities and the digital driving seat

The next generation are not selfie-obsessed digital conformists. Digital is not shaping their world. They are shaping it. They manage it and mould it, developing strategies to get the most out of every platform while minimising the risk of negative feedback. They are the ones in the digital driving seat.

As such, they have become adept at fragmenting their identities, cultivating multiple digital selves depending on the platforms used and the result they want to elicit from sharing their content.

2. Building personal brands through social media

This is a generation of digital strategists and content editors - even if they don't know it. While they may be actively seeking more real experiences online, they have learned to be extremely calculated in how they present their personal brand, creating strict strategies around how, when and where they are seen.

Aware of the tension between their current social media presence (a reflection of the present) and their digital footprint (a reflection of the past), they edit timelines and delete online histories to create better, up-to-date impressions.

3. Friends and followers: balancing open and closed networks

There has been a clear shift in how relationships are viewed. Once, the aim was to collect followers as a form of peer validation. While followers and likes still matter there is a greater understanding that social media friendships do not necessarily equate to real friendships. This generation are, therefore, placing an emphasis on finding positive experiences on closed, intimate networks of real friends.

This balancing act between open and intimate is one they appear comfortable with, as they adapt content rather than security preferences to stay active online, yet a dichotomy remains between the ongoing need for validation and a desire for more control and privacy.

4. The enduring impact of digital on the real world

In education, the way the this generation is using digital is helping them find (and occasionally copy) answers, make life changing decisions about whether to attend university, and find the people and tips to help them settle into new careers or university lives.

In retail, buying via mobile and waiting a day for delivery is preferred to instore shopping, with reasons ranging from not wishing to waste time, to not wanting to be around other people.

5. A bright vision of the future

From access to information to mobile shopping, study groups to social interaction, the view this generation has of the world is largely upbeat and positive. The participants seek out positive experiences on and offline, and employ personalised strategies to avoid negative experiences. There is a sense of being at the start of an exciting journey or phase in their lives and they hold the view that the digital world already does, and will continue to, enable them to progress.

They seem equipped with strategies to make the digital world work for them as they recognise that if not managed appropriately, there are negative aspects to being 'always on'.

The results have consistently shown us that this Amaze Generation continue to confound every expectation and stereotype we throw at them. They are an intriguing mix of contradictions, fracturing identities, creating personae, editing their personal brands and developing strategies to shape the digital world to meet their evolving needs. They want validation but not intrusion; constant communication but real and intimate networks; platforms that inform, inspire and enable. And they want it all now.

To find out more on the 'Amaze Generation' study and to download the full report, please visit Amaze's website: www.amaze.com/about/amaze-generation/