What is the spirit of the times?
A view from Sue Unerman

What is the spirit of the times?

My regular readers will be aware of the reasons that I missed Google's annual Zeitgeist festival again.

 However, I don’t like to miss out on the spirit of the times and the highlight video from the event is open to everyone to view. (Theme: Rethink and Reset. This includes: "Do we want a society where everything is up for sale?"; "Emotional fitness"; "Music as storytelling"; "You can never leave footprints that last if you’re only walking on tiptoe"; and "There are no countries where the arrival of the internet has made things worse".)

Of course, I like to have my own view on the spirit of the times, and a good place to start is with teens. There is a new report from MediaCom’s Real World Insight: Real World Teens. This generation of teens have some significantly different behaviours in some respects to previous teens. They are connected natives and behave quite differently with their mobile phones, for example. They grew up with them; they haven’t adopted them like their mums and dads did. They are more intimate with them (and are never without them) and they share more.

Technology is definitely driving FOMO – fear of missing out. "Nomophobia" – fear of not having a mobile phone on you – exhibits itself via constant status updates and checking of mobiles. FOMO clearly can exist without the technology – if you’ve ever longed to go to a party or after-party and lingered until the desire to be included becomes just embarrassing, then you’ve suffered FOMO. However, technology exacerbates the malady significantly. Sixty-six per cent of teens always check their mobile when they wake up and 63 per cent always check it when they go to bed.

It's not all about FOMO, of course. Teenage years have always been very emotional and transitional years as you grow from dependence to independence and often yo-yo between the two. But today’s teens are very conscious as a generation of the pressure on them to get educated (at their own expense after school), find a career and not just a job, and move away from home. Our report suggests that they are not so much revelling in the freedom of those years and are more anxiously looking forward with mixed feelings.

There seems to be less YOLO than FOMO. And perhaps that anxious spirit of the times is best expressed for all of us by that dominant slogan on mugs, cards and plaques all over the place: "Keep calm and…"

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom