Last Friday, I had the pleasure of sharing an airplane ride with the entire San Jose State Women’s Water Polo team. The experience proved to be an enlightening one from a New Media perspective.
I first encountered the team while approaching Gate 16 to board my non-stop flight from San Jose to Orange County. There I found young athletes, scattered about the gate area, all wearing uniforms consisting of blue sweats and matching backpacks. The fact that there were no empty seats remaining in the waiting area didn’t bother a half dozen or so. They just pulled up a section of rug. Oh, to be young again!
But what struck me wasn’t the spectacle of a large group of identically dressed young women. What struck me instead was what they were doing — en mass. They were texting. Each athlete had her cell phone in hand, and played her part in a plastic-key orchestra that filled the gate area with familiar clickity-clack rhythm.
During the boarding process, the airplane was filled with a cacophony of conversations that reverberated off of the curved walls. These young ladies talked about everything…from how they did on their latest exam to how to get out of dancing with a boy while you’re already on the dance floor — fascinating in its own right!
Then something amazing happened. Just as the stewardess reminded passengers to put away all portable electronic devices, a pall came over the plane. It was weird. The once chatty crowd entered a nervous waiting period, as they contemplated life without access to their creature comforts. The wheels hadn’t even left the runway when I heard one of the girls say, “I can’t wait to listen to my iPod.” Not long after we were in the air, the stewardess couldn’t even finish the “You may now use approved portable electronic devices,” speech, before entertainment-starved hands were stuffed into backpacks to retrieve every combination and permutation of iPod possible. For the rest of the flight, each girl donned a pair of headphones and entered into their own private little concerts.
As I sat there, I marveled at the sight. I was looking directly at the future of New Media. These young athletes were unknowingly teaching me a lesson. They had demonstrated through their actions their need to be connected — with people and their media.
I envisioned a time, four small years from now, when every woman on that plane will be starting her life anew. Four years from now, in a mere 48 months, they’ll be making their first major purchasing decisions, just like their mothers and grandmothers had.
But there’s very important difference between today’s young women and yesterday’s. In the past, if you wanted a twenty-something’s attention, you’d reach her through radio, television, print or email. That worked well for many years with Mom and Grandma, but won’t work today for one very simple reason. Our present-day twenty-somethings don’t use those communications channels anymore.
Just something to think about as we look to a new future.