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The Coming-of-Age Bond Between Millennials and Their Technology

For grizzly ol’ boomers, millennials have been infamous for their close relationship with technology. As boomers struggled to keep their pagers in order, millennials prodigiously knew how to operate VCRs, tweak the TV antenna to get the perfect signal, and seemed to know how technology works even before it reached their hands.

A Venn diagram of millennials and tech with the circles intersecting an area titled 'not being understood by boomers'.

Millennials see tech as a sibling that grew up as they did. They matured in a similar manner, too. Millennials and technology went through phases of life that overlapped.

90’s-2000s

The childhood of the dial-up modem

Millennials saw the advent of the dial-up modem as mere children and fell in love with it. They grew up in a time when you needed a wristwatch for time, a walkman for music, and a calculator for calculations. Every function was distinctly associated with one object. 

Even TV shows were like a passing sunset. You had a window, once a day and if you missed the window, you missed the show. That was the biggest cultural challenge for a 90’s kid. If you weren’t there on time, you wouldn’t just miss the plot but the hours of discussion with your friends that would happen the next day. 

Computers and dial-up changed everything. Suddenly, the distinction wasn’t so apparent anymore. Can we do two things with one device?

Yes! The blazing fast speed of 8 KBPS and the allure of cybercafes caught on. Suddenly, it became the biggest expenditure of a teenager’s pocket money. Orkut was the new thing on the block and you’d spend weeks trying to amp up your profile to impress the coolest girl in your section. 

A 4 tier pyramid with first tier as having a computer at home, second as having the money to go to a cybercafe, third as having a tv at home and fourth as having friends who have a tv at home.

The rich kids had computers and connections at their homes while we would spend all the time and money we could in cyber cafes. The endless spontaneity, the novelty, and the exclusivity of the internet made it special, made it different, made it a luxury. Back then, the internet was not perfect. The speed was awfully slow and broadband plans were rare, expensive, and unreliable. However, it was better than putting yourself through commercials in front of the television set, and hence, the compromise was acceptable. 

That is, of course, until we entered college.

2005-2010

The age of undergraduates and the internet

College was a big deal. The seats were limited, the competition was high, but the freedom? 

Priceless. Golden. 

The internet was fast and the time limit didn’t exist anymore. It was the golden age of pirated songs and the same English movies that would go all around the hostel on one pen drive. Facebook had replaced Orkut. For the first time, your social status finally had a number and became a physical metric. 

And yes, the touch screen phones. Released at the apex of their lives, touchscreen and camera phones were a rare commodity and made waves all over the world. It was the time when styluses were cool and having a 4-megapixel camera made us swoon. BBM reigned supreme and that little black square was one of the three things on the cool checklist. The other two? 

Guitar and having your own vehicle, duh.

A three-step staircase with 'buy a blackberry' on the first, 'get a bike' on the second and 'learn the guitar' on the third.

As these starry-eyed undergraduates begged their parents for the savviest phone ever, something new was coming up on the horizon. 

That’s right. The iPhone.

2010 – 15 

The age of smartphones

When Steve Jobs released the iPhone, he didn’t know the massive amount of PR that NRIs would do for the company in front of their nephews and nieces. And just like that, a full-screen physical keyboard was no competition to an elegant concoction of glass and metal that changed the smartphone industry forever.

Though, of course, we turned it into the ultimate arcade zone for Temple Run and Subway Surfers. These two games, single-handedly forced younger siblings to be nicer, just to get some screen time. The mp3 player became futile and everyone shifted to WhatsApp as HTC and Samsung came up with their own contenders in the market. 

Millennials saw the transition of the phone market into the ‘smartphone’ market and they were all for it. However, possessing a smartphone was a pricey affair. The best smartphones were worth two months of salary and a vital organ plus the additional 300-400 bucks spent on 3G internet that would operate on E as soon as you’d walk into a crowded area.

An old iPhone with various applications and games installed.

WiFi wasn’t an omnipresent thing and folks were especially happy working in companies that covered their phone bills. Watching a 480p video without buffering? Insane. Seeing the weather app and telling your mom to shift her laundry schedule? Paradigm shifting. Sending images over WhatsApp and forgetting all about pesky SMS cards? Utopia. 

It is said though, that all good things must come to an end.

2015 – Present

The age of… stability? 

China ruined everything by improving everything. 

China’s glorious manufacturing infrastructure brought us Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo. They made it possible to own a fast smartphone without breaking the bank. And then, as millennials became fully-functioning adults with jobs, loans, and insurance payments; tech became just as much of a providing family member. Everything from homework to electricity bills shifted online. 

Millennials saw the reaction change on buying a smartphone from “OH MY GOD THIS MUST BE THE HAPPIEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE” to “Oh, nice.”

With this cultural shift, the reins of tech are being handed over to the most existential generation ever, the Gen-Z.

Millennials used to think that technology was theirs to conquer before the Gen-Z came in and had their own coup d’état. The reason, of course, is that the Gen-Z babies were born with a smartphone in their crib whereas millennials got a camera phone if they topped their boards.

A Gen-Z baby drooling and looking at his phone.

They’ve taken over tech and flooded the social media channels with TikTok videos, Twitch streams, and political rants. With their smartwatches, digital notes, and virtual assistants; who knows what Gen-Z has in mind for the future?

Tech continues to grow as millennials try to navigate their 30s. As Gen-Z begins to enter the workforce, millennials have started feeling old. As the nuances of apps like clubhouse, and the transition from music to podcasts seems to elude the millennials, they stand face to face with a mortifying epiphany. 

“Are we the new boomers?”

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