Ninebranches | Why Millennials Don’t Order Pizza Over the Phone
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28 Apr Why Millennials Don’t Order Pizza Over the Phone

Pizza Margerita at Piccolo

So, imagine you’re going pioneering to China in a few months. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I’d do (after doing a lot of praying) is start learning to speak and write Mandarin, closely followed by trying to understand how they see and interact with the world. If I’m going to live there for a few years, I need to get to know their culture so that my trip will be successful. Otherwise, the things I do won’t have a very big impact.

Well, it turns out there’s a culture that’s here in our communities that we often fail to have meaningful communications with  — youth / young adults. Personally, I don’t think it’s a question of desire. I think most Baha’is, young or old, really want to have inter-generational friendships that span the ages. The truth is, though, that youth communicate very differently than older generations, and it’s very technology centered.

Girl with phone

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating. Think for a bit about ordering a pizza — you call up the local pizza shop of your choice, maybe ask what the specials are, tell them what you want and where you live, and when the delivery guy shows up you exchange some cash for a hot, delicious mix of cheese and tomato sauce (at minimum). You calculate how much tip to give the guy, and then it’s all done. Straightforward enough, right?

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

This all sounds a little too personal to folks in my generation. You mean, call the pizza guy on the phone? With absolutely no warning, just like that? It all feels a little awkward for me. Can’t I just order it online somewhere where we don’t have to interact with a human? What if I say something weird on the phone?

Way too risky.

Okay, maybe not this risky.

Okay, maybe not this risky.

This is why almost every pizza place has an smartphone app you can order through, and it’s a big reason why companies like Seamless and Grubhub exist in the first place. We (millennials)  just communicate differently, even if it seems completely absurd to older generations. Check out this piece in Phillymag if you need more convincing (or just want to be entertained).

All of this means that when tech trends change, we as the Baha’i community need to stay on top of them to make sure that we’re ready and able to be relevant to the younger ones among us. Unfortunately, all the amazing Junior Youth Groups in the world can’t make up for a basic lack of communication.

Here are some of the trends I’m talking about:

  • Social media is at least as important as face-to-face interaction. Make no mistake, I’m not saying that social media is better than real, personal interactions, but I am saying that young adults perceive them as being of relatively equal importance. After all, this is where we increasingly spend our time. Local Baha’i communities should embrace social media (with all its flaws) rather than rejecting it wholesale.
  • There’s a certain sense among my generation that if it isn’t online, it doesn’t really exist. To a large extent, an organization’s legitimacy is affected by its online presence (or lack thereof). On a personal level, some psychologists have famously even begun labeling young people who abstain from social media as ‘suspicious’ and potentially even ‘psychopathic’. Way over the top, certainly, but it does point to a larger point: to be part of the larger conversation going on in my generation, you at least have to be present where we are (online).
  • Youtube is increasingly more influential than traditional media. Don’t believe me? On a recent survey conducted on behalf of Variety magazine, they asked teens who was most influential to them in the wider culture. Who did they answer? A bunch of people you’ve likely never heard of (and a lot that I haven’t, either). The common thread was that they were mostly YouTube stars who make entertaining, relevant videos. The content of their videos differs, but music, humor, and video games are prominent themes.
  • Instagram is increasingly the social network of choice for teens / young adults. While almost all of them still maintain a Facebook account as well, they use them pretty differently these days. Instagram is how they communicate the events of their lives with their friends,, while Facebook is more of a place that they use to communicate to people in their wider circles, including family.

If nothing else, I here’s what I hope you take away from this: Local Baha’i communities need to embrace technology and communicate with young people the way they are comfortable being communicated with if we hope to engage them and be relevant in their lives.

So as local Baha’i communities, what should our strategy be to help engage this important part of our community between Core Activities?

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