Millennials: Trust No One But Twitter

A generation that's lost faith in institutions puts itself in the hands of social media

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Millennials — today’s 80 million-strong generation of 18 to 34 year olds — have been raised to be wary of, at the risk of sounding like a Boomer, The Man. They’ve graduated college with tens of thousands of student loan debt. They’ve entered a job market at its tightest since the Great Depression. They’re economically conservative almost to the point of being frugal and don’t assume they’ll live better than their parents (and many won’t). Trust, for them, isn’t a given; it has to be earned.

But while millennials may have lost the ability to blindly count on those institutions that earlier generations may have relied on as constants — the government, banks, big Pharma, conventional media (it turns out millennials don’t even trust Jay-Z) —what they do rely on in increasing numbers is social media. And each other.

It seems counterintuitive: to trust a genre that allows people, for the most part, to say whatever they like, with no real official measure for, or guarantee of, truth and accuracy. “We have these Twitter accounts, some of us command these huge audiences and we can essentially be saying whatever we want at our own behest,” 25-year-old Leandra Medine, creator of the fashion blog Man Repeller, told the New York Times in December. Yet numerous studies have found that while social media may be rife with fraud and misrepresentation (and here I’m speaking generally, and not about Medine’s site in particular), millennials put more stock in the format than in anything said by government, business, or religious institutions.

They buy ideas, beliefs, and products from people, not corporations. An annual report compiled by global public relations firm Edelman found just 38 percent of consumers — with millennials being the largest part of this group — trust government officials, down from an already modest 52 percent just two years ago. Forty-three percent trust CEOs, down from 50 percent. But there is a way to regain that trust: 82 percent said they would have more faith in a company or institution if they were involved in social media.

In fact, for even more proof that truth in social media is of little consequence, millennials are more willing to take the word of strangers on the Internet than people they know. A study conducted by social media software service Bazaarvoice, in partnership with The Center for Generational Kinetics and Kelton Research, found that 51 percent of millennials contemplating a purchase are more likely to be influenced by input from strangers—in the form of user-generated content, anonymous reviews, and the like—over recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues. A 2013 survey of more than 500 millennials by advocate marketing firm SocialChorus, meanwhile, found that 67 percent of them have never clicked on a sponsored story, questioning (rightly so) the motives behind it and relying instead on user-generated content to decide how and where to spend their money. The upshot: Millennials learn what they think about Congress, how they think about God, and what they want from a shampoo not from the institutions trying to promote those ideas (or that shampoo), but from each other.

Of course, the fact that firms, corporations, and even religions are using social media to help restore trust (see: Pope Francis on Twitter) means that they recognize the need to recover millennial goodwill, and may move towards a more open dialogue in attempting to achieve it. Social media is but one means to this end. And conversation, of course, is healthy. At the same time, social media-obsessed millennials may be suffering at the hands of their own connectedness. A Pew report found that while this age group has more tools to acquire the information they need to make decisions than any generation before them, they retain less of that information in the long run. They may also develop unrealistic expectations of their power to change things. After all: Already, in an attempt to circumvent millennial disdain, many institutions and corporations have started to recruit millennial advocates to speak on their behalf. Which means the message is the same, even if the messenger has changed. Bloggers, we know, are branding tools. But your best friend may very well be next.

14 comments
BrianBlasser
BrianBlasser

The author conflates millennials' cynicism towards institutions by failing to mention if other generations are more or less cynical this day in age as well. The past few years have brought about the financial crisis, do nothing congress, wikileaks, snowden, etc which seems to have eroded trust more than the facile argument that this is a new millennial trend.

john_rambo
john_rambo

They all still live with Mommy and Daddy and don't pay rent.

Openminded1
Openminded1

That is why it is a stupid generation. they do not know history, or geography , or current events other then maybe the entertainment world. All the morons know is how to use  a computer, and cell phones.

trey.loren214
trey.loren214

Yeah, those dumb kids don't trust the government (NSA), media (Jason Blair), religious organizations (systemic child sex abuse), or corporations (greed fueled economic collapse).

When will they ever learn to blindly trust the institutions of society like good little sheep?

GuoLiang
GuoLiang

@trey.loren214  Wow, aren't you a rebel? 

All those things still make them more trustworthy than some random guy on twitter. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@trey.loren214  If you asked 200 people on the street under the age of 25 what is the NSA, My bet would be less then 10% would know. They can careless about economic collapse all they care about is where they are getting laid, have a bite to eat and what to get high on. As for religion most do not practice if they do they are the holly roller set like Mormons, so called Cristians and jews, with a few jova witness  thrown in. Muslim kids are learning how to hate all non-muslims, the baptist are there to check out who's wife is sleeping with whom. The catholics are going to confession talking to a priest who might have just had a thing with an alter boy 20 minutes earlier. This is a f-uped world, but the reality is this generation is dumb, lazy and clueless about the real world. Like i said they know about the internet,twitter, cell phones stupid face book and the the entertainment world.

cault33
cault33

@WidnrMSw @Openminded1 he also spelled Christians wrong, ha.

Daweson
Daweson

@Openminded1 @WidnrMSw
Hilarious your handle is "Openminded1". It is the useless garbage you spout that makes Gen Y cynical, when they see elders (I assume such as yourself, judging by the condescending manner in which you write) berate and verbally assault them telling them they're useless and incompetent, meanwhile it is the older generation that has gotten the world to the state it is in. Instead of being part of the problem, be part of the solution. That means take your uneducated opinions down to the local watering-hole and chew some bartender's ear off about the "glory days", which I'm guessing for you was probably some time in the mid 1980s. Enjoy working till you're 70, because I know I will.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@WidnrMSw @Openminded1  You took the time to go over all that on a site like this. You are the moron. When you type 125 words a minute millennial without proof reading and without mistakes let me know. this is not grammar school and you are not a professor grading papers. You were able to read and comprehend every word. let me know if i spelled ass wipe correctly, because i would not want to get your nick name wrong or misspelled .

WidnrMSw
WidnrMSw

@Openminded1  A couple corrections from a millennial. 


1. 1st sentence- you capitalized the word My after using a comma

2. They can care less, not careless.  

3. holy roller, not holly roller

4. Jehovah, not jova.  Also, witness should be plural.

5. check out whose wife is sleeping with whom, not who's wife.  Also baptist should be plural.

6. altar boy, not alter boy

7. F'd up, not f-uped.  Uped isn't even a word.

8. I'm not even going to bother with all the missed commas and uncapitalized proper nouns.


If you asked 200 people under the age of 10, my bet would be 90% of them know grammar better than you.

jgar4j
jgar4j

@Openminded1  I have to agree avast majority of the people don't know anything. But it doesn't mean they don't know how to play mind altering games.