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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rabbit Holes and Millenials

This is going to be a rather long blog from me. But it's kind of important that I get this out, cause it is one of those things rolling around in my head that wants out. Bear with me as I ramble.

I tend to classify things historically by generations. I'm a Boomer. Before me were the Industrialists. Before them were the Agriculturists. Before them were the Hunter/Gatherers. I know I just lost a lot of you on that one, but do try to follow. I'm referring in parallel to humanity's cultural development. Back to the Boomers. After us comes the Gen X'ers. Then the current wave, the Millennials. I'm aware of the sub-classifications, such as "Flappers", "Beatniks", "Hippies", "Yuppies", and "Gen Y and Z". I would fall under the "Yuppie" category, if push came to shove.

Let's talk about Millennials for a bit, which is where this blog entry originates with. Their birth years span roughly between 2000, and 2012. They are a breed, apart. Everything they've ever known has been connected some way through the internet. Be it entertainment, to communications, to education. Now here comes good ol' "Joey1058". Hey, I'm hip. I'm with it. (Old farts terminology. Dead giveaway to anyone Gen X or younger that I am to be humored.) I know what's going on with the internet. I can relate to these kids. Or so I fooled myself into believing.

I first heard about something called "eSports" roughly 6 months ago. Before that, I only knew of, and the more recent YouTube Gaming pages. And before that, it was a quaint little pastime called Machinima. So I dutifully started my research. At a leisurely pace. After all, I was hip and with it. I knew about kids and their gaming channels on twitch. I was rather interestingly surprised at what I discovered about eSports. There are professional teams that compete anywhere from auditoriums to traditional sports arenas to play video games. For some serious rewards and bragging rights. And there are big name sponsorship's associated with all these teams, eager to discover what could be the equivalent of a new NFL franchise. So I've been digging a little more.

For those of you that only use social networking on a casual basis, like I was, you consider them nice ways to keep informed, or just keep abreast of current events. Maybe follow a topic that holds your interest. I tend to go to Twitter when I want to follow a particular company's current events. Otherwise I'd be in LinkedIn. I had been following random people mostly due to my own interests that I've held for a good number of years. So recently I've been following a businessman by the name of Gary Vaynerchuk. An awesome personality, that has turned my thinking about how to run a business on it's ear. His mantra is get your butt into social media. And specifically, Instagram. Which I did. 

I'm attempting to keep my focus in mixed reality in terms of where technology is going. I have been so far off the mark, it's staggering. Instagram is a beehive of professional networking that I never truly understood until I joined.  But, it's not just "professionals". Nor is it kids looking to waste time online. And that's when it hit me that I've been thinking about social networking all wrong. I was never able to wrap my head around the use of "hashtags". (Old fart's moment. That's the "pound" symbol to us.) So I went back to Twitter, and entered #eSports. That's when the ground collapsed under me.

Oh, my gawd.

Remember my reference to beehives? There are quite possibly many thousands of young, dedicated people, mostly Millennials, that use Twitter for conducting serious business. But on their terms. And it's quite a bit about the numbers. Numbers of followers, numbers in your scores, numbers in your PayPal Acct. These people flow as seamlessly between social platforms as I do from the house to the car, to the store, and reverse the process. I never considered PayPal as anything close to a social platform. Most still don't. but its not about communications so much as enablement. Which is what social networks are to Millennials. And for that matter, so is gaming.

Gaming is their profession of choice. The default world has crapped on their parade as far as employment is concerned. They grew up with a phone in their hands and a gaming app on that phone. I have watched dozens of YouTube channels now that showcase semi-pro, professional, and ex pros gaming styles. And the jostle for sponsorships of any sort and opportunities to join eSports teams. Those that missed a sponsorship collect the bounty of points, coins, or gold, or whatever treasure they earned from that particular gameplay, and trade it. And not just for fiat currency. If they get a chance to convert it to cash, a lot of it stays in PayPal so they can pay for better gaming gear. They have inventories full of digital goods that they can convert as the need arises. FinCEN be damned.

I had to step back to understand the full scope of what was happening around me online, as even now I have people requesting to be added to my network. Immersive computing has been going on beneath our noses. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are simply creating an awareness of immersion now for us Gen X'ers and Boomers. We have been smug, thinking "oh the next paradigm in computing is going to be Mixed Reality". Bah. VR and AR headsets are just going to be another set of tools for enablement to a generation that already lives completely digitized lives. 

I really need to echo Gary Vee in his imploring: Get involved in social networking. It's not the particular platform, but the empowerment. Or we're all gonna miss the boat.