The Sea Punk + Sad Girl Guide to Technology

The niche online communities leading British youth culture today...

Originally featured in the Voxburner blog, Jade French explores how technology facilitates youth culture.

It’s both easy and lazy to look at a generation and plant labels on their relationship with technology: Generation Z are the Snapchat generation, and Baby Boomers are technophobes. But what happens when we encounter a grandma like BaddieWinkle, or get stopped in our tracks by an eloquent teen like Tavi Gevinson? As technology infiltrates more parts of our lives, the segmentation of age becomes less helpful and blurs what we assume we know about youth and maturity. Are we dealing with a robotised generation, seduced by technology and forming no real bonds? Or are they creative, connected and culturally aware?

In reality, tech is facilitating youth culture – it’s in this space people connect, create and experiment. Those we file away as Generation Z are the first people born into this connected world, they’re digital natives in ways other generations can only dream of. But our research suggests that they walk a thin line between pride and guilt; the pressures put upon them by older generations to drop their tech and ‘experience life’ doesn’t chime with the joy they feel at their interconnected experiences.

Meet the Seapunks and the Sad Girls.

They might say they are experiencing life, and not only that, making their own worlds; you only have to look at niche online communities such as Twitch, SBTV, Sad Girls y qué, and Wavey Garms to see it. Even the supposed Seapunk movement nearly made the mainstream. These are global communities, covering everything from gaming, fashion, music, gender and identity – and they’re not created for marketers. They don’t ask for outsiders to understand how a meme can educate you on politics.

They’re also not just platforms to spout opinion or update on today’s lunch (which is often how we view social media). These groups share thoughts and information, becoming libraries, marketplaces and support groups.

If brands want access to these groups, it’s crucial for them to understand youth culture and lifestyle, but there’s a thin line between being respected for this communication, and ridiculed. With a medium that changes so rapidly, there’s always the risk of being dated before you’ve had sign off.

Young Blood

As an agency working closely with brands including PlayStation, Converse, Red Bull and YouTube, it's vital we understand the ever evolving nuance of youth culture. Following our 2012 FanCulture film, Amplify have spent the last few months examining new trends across the elusive 13-25 age group.

On April 4th these findings will be shared in our latest documentary - Young Blood: Exploring British Youth Culture. Over a 7 part series we share how young people define themselves, against the received wisdom of what marketers think they know. With a White Paper backing up our findings, we will be previewing our research at YMS 2016.

We've spoken to over 2,500 young people from around the UK, going straight to the source to determine what defines this generation, as well as key voices from these communities including James Massiah, Vicky Grout and Jessica Skye.

Through Young Blood, Amplify have become even more inspired by the amount of young people who see tech as a creative tool, and realise we need to move away from thinking that they’re plugged in and zoned out. It’s time to ditch the assumptions, and start listening to the views of the young people, through their mediums of choice.