Communicating the millennial wayPosted on

I was recently asked by a sporting organisation that I work with to give my views on millennials and the way that they communicate.

Whilst the firm works with established professionals who are not quite in the millennial bracket, our work with Academies and Elite Development Squads means that we work very regularly with young men and women born in the 1990s (gulp!). From the accepted definitions we have seen the birth year for “millennials” varies from the 1980s to early 2000s and therefore the young players we work with are, I guess, “late millennials”.

Below is an extract of some of my thoughts on how “the kids” communicate:

1. Speed of communication is central for them. Generation X (my generation – born between the 1960s and 1980s) know a time before instant communication and therefore lived through the formative years of mobile phones and the internet where communication was slower and at much greater cost. Sending a text message on a clunky Nokia in the 1990s for 15p (or however much your network charged you) meant you would take care to get the content right and ensure that you were sparing in the amount of messages sent. Millennials have grown up with no such limitations. It is typical to receive 5 short messages in a minute from a millennial. Such as this recent exchange with a young player taken directly from my phone:
– Yes please
– If they can
– Bro
– [fist bump emoji]
– Top man
Such instinctive, incautious communication is why messages from millennials will be rife with typos and mistakes but, more importantly, it is why there is a perception that they make more, and more serious, communication errors in general.
2. Impatience and a lack of care is a symptom of this speed. Setting up a social media account is (or should be) a profound step. It is the creation of a public (or at least semi public) profile and also a means of public communication. It’s the online equivalent of telling someone where your house is. It is very typical for teenagers to set up a Twitter or Instagram account without: making a note of their password, using a secure email address (they will sometimes use a fake email address) or setting up adequate security settings or trying to understand how the website or App works in the event that something goes wrong. The result is that those taking this approach to social media run a very real risk of having their accounts hacked or accessed by others or completely losing access to their accounts. This is one of the most common instructions we have received for young players in recent years and on each occasion, once the main problem is sorted, we have had to carefully work through with the player to set up a secure account and email account to ensure the problem does not repeat.
3. The way they communicate is, in some ways, both ephemeral and permanent. To an extent text messaging is dying out. Apps such as WhatsApp as well as direct messaging on Twitter and Instagram are a preferred method of communication. By communicating through online applications such as this millennials do not have control of the communications in the same way as if they were saved on their handset (like text messages). This means that they have no control over how they are stored – the messages can disappear or reappear without their control. Using these Apps suits the lifestyle of many millennials because they follow the fashions of communication. If a millennial regularly changes his or her handset then he or she is more comfortable using an App that they can login to on whatever latest phone they have purchased.
The most extreme version of the ephemeral nature of App messaging is SnapChat. One young player told me that he communicates largely via SnapChat messaging. He gave one example of how that is not always ideal. A friend sent him a message inviting him to an event and giving him a time to meet. He forgot the time of the event after reading the message but, of course, just as Inspector Gadget envisaged during my formative years, the message self-destructed and he couldn’t check it again.
One huge advantage of the modern age, or at least where all parties are “connected”, is that we can re-communicate without having to take too much care and attention in our initial meetings. I often find myself watching dramas on television and shouting out at the TV when two characters agree to meet: “Where are you going to meet?! What time?! Make the arrangements!!” When members of Generation X were young we agreed details of a rendezvous and we ensured that we stuck to those details. Now, it is often possible to make an acquaintance, not exchange any details, and still continue the communication remotely. A simple Google or a check of LinkedIn or, in the case of millennials, a check on Twitter or Instagram and communication can be made.
A typical new instruction from a player I know will start with a message from Twitter appearing on my phone which says “[insert name of player] is now following you!”. This is swiftly followed by a Direct Message with a question or a request for help. I do everything I can to ensure that players have my mobile number but, it seems, it’s so much easier for them to simply know that I’m called Matt Himsworth and can be Googled or, more likely, that I’m @MattHimsworth on Twitter or Instagram.
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