My Uber ride with 2 teenage girls
Consumer behaviour is my expertise and hence I like observing various age groups of people everyday. Taking an #Uber Pool ride once in a while is a great way for me be part of some very interesting conversations. But a recent ride was such an eye opener that I had to write about it.
Two teenage girls, about 14 and 16yrs respectively (or perhaps younger), got into the cab, and I had the privilege of spending around 40mins with them. With each sentence that they spoke, my eyes opened wider and wider, making me realize how far I was from the actual reality of today’s teenage conversations. But there were also some really interesting things I observed regarding their demeanor and behavior.
The Confident Indifference
From the moment these girls sat in the cab, they were openly chatty with each other. They had no hesitation about a stranger sitting with them in the cab. They discussed everything from boys to parties to clothes to tuition. There was this utmost confidence in their tone and a great sense of comfort. It was as if it was just them in the car and nobody else.This was truly worth admiring actually, but also a bit scary in some ways. I, on the other hand was even hesitant to talk on the phone openly with them around. The girls were also completely oblivious to the cab driver and what he might hear and conclude.
Takeaway: Marketers and ad agencies must see this as a great finding for the way they show ads with teenagers. Perhaps the new “Pepsi thi. Pi Gaya” campaign is based on this finding and hence resonates with the TG. It is this confident indifference that distinguishes this group from the rest.
The Verbal Lingo
This was the other big observation I made. The two girls were using the SMS language in the verbal form. They actually used abbreviations like “LOL” as an expression in their sentences. Now this was a massive eye opener for me. It sounded incredibly silly at first. I could barely control my laughter. But they were using it so ‘matter of factly’ that it made me feel very outdated. Are teenagers actually adapting short forms like ROFL, BRB, etc in their daily conversations? How does this affect their verbal communication skills when they step into the world? Do they do it just to throw the elders off? What about exams? We tend to talk the way we think. So are teenagers thinking in the SMS lingo now?
Takeaway: Perhaps we as marketers and educators need to acknowledge thisbig shift in verbal communication. We have accepted short forms in informal written communication, but I have not really heard any brand use it verbally. AIB had released certain videos with such vocab but again that was meant to be funny. But if teens are talking like this everyday, then we need to take cognizance of it.
In the 40 mins, the girls seamlessly switched between the following topics, in the most casual manner, irrespective of the gravity that you and I might attach to them:
Credit card misplaced
The fact that one of them had misplaced her mom’s credit card, and was yet to inform the parent or block the card! She was delaying both because she felt the card was misplaced inside the house somewhere. So why tell?
One of the boys was cheating on his girlfriend with another and that people saw him kissing the new girl on the neck. These were 14-16yr olds! I have to say I was literally cringing in the cab at this moment. Tells me how old I am getting.
That one of the girls they know wears really nice clothes and has great hair. But the 2 hated everything else about her. They discussed how the well dressed girl bought most of her clothes from Forever21 and they even looked at her pics on the phone to recall her clothes from the previous day.
When one of them said “what’s with you and streaks?” I simply assumed they are talking about hair streaks! Ha ha. But when they started elaborating, I realized it is to do with #Snapchat. Streaks is a feature on #Snapchat which is really popular with teens these days. You are on a ‘SnapStreak’ with a person – if you have sent them a snap for several consecutive days and they snap you back every time (the number next to your fire emoji will increase with every day you add to the Snap Streak!). So the girls were discussing who has how many streaks.
The girls also touched upon who has blocked them on various social media platforms and how they intend to block them too. There was a true sense of social competition in their conversations.
Takeaway: We people in our thirties have a very low shock threshold compared to the teens. People older than us are even more easily appalled. Teens are fearless. They have their own set of priorities, issues and pressures. And we all must try to dig deeper into these to relate to them better, no matter how ridiculous it might seem to us. The recent rise in depression cases among teens could be because this gap is getting wider and wider.
I want to thank these 2 girls for sharing a small part of their day with me because it made me sensitive to their world. I was both amused and educated that day.