The Millennials Uncanny Ability to Absorb

Today’s post originally began as a response to a colleague’s request. Sidneyeve Matrix commented on my previous blog post suggesting my “observation about ‘the uncanny ability of Millennials to absorb’ deserves a separate post,” and that she would like to see my analysis on this behavioural trend. And though I myself replied that the posted would be finished yesterday, after I began writing, a whole can-of-worms seemingly opened up. So enjoy!

We’ve all heard about the many characteristics that make the Millennials something of a unique bunch. From their psychological make-up to their technologically advanced environment and web-savvyness, to say the world has never seen a generation like this would almost be an understatement.

The course of visible change that has occurred in this decade compared to the last is extraordinary. And we’ve already become highly adapted to these evolutions and advances within our daily environments. Though there might be a few arguable similarities, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that there are clear differences in the way members of Gen-Y have grown up and are continuing to grow up.

The Last 5 Years or So…

The world we see today is drastically different from that of even just 5 years ago. Well, let me rephrase that. The Millennial’s world is drastically different. How could it not be? Many aspects of daily Millennial life have never been daily aspects of life before. From how Millennials interact with media, to their social media life, understanding how they value brands, and understanding their personal extension and fascination with mobile devices, it’s absolutely amazing to see that all this has happened over the last 5 years or so.

But once we take a step forward, these worldly changes themselves are already in the midst of change. Mobile devices are moving away from cell and feature phones to a world of smart phones, pads and tablets. I’ve already read and seen dialogue for “super phones” amongst current smart phone makers.

Social media fatigue and our constant want for communication has pushed our notions of “sharing” to notions of “connecting”. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll continue to share but we’ll be more concerned about connecting and communicating.

And how could we almost forget about how much more strategy is necessary for marketing to Millennials, instances of un-sponsored Millennials seemingly promoting brands by themselves, more Gen-Y involvement in product and brand success, and how they’re shifting the retail environment.

With the world changing around them, the Millennials have reacted and adapted. And they will continue to constantly react and adapt. But will you be able to match them?

Sharing, Connecting and… Absorbing?

There is no denying Millennials go online and frequent social networking sites. 78% of those aged 18-34 use social media. Equally mobile habits have also increased greatly. And rather than going into this, I implore you view this list of Millennial facts, which provide great online, social and mobile insights. Along with this, there is a series of continuing and growing statistical insights that shed light into this generation.

Millennials are avid YouTubers. While 13-17 year-olds represent 21%, 18-34 year-olds represent 36% of YouTube’s viewing audience, combining for a total of 57%. Of which, they had a significant viewing impact to the over 5.7 billion videos were streamed in the US just this past June.

Further, live streaming video has grown a significant 600% over the last year, with YouTube and Hulu increasing 68% and 75% respectively. And though live streaming itself still represents a small audience compared to others, a year-over-year gain such as this shouldn’t be overlooked. Equally, live streaming sites are 72% more likely to deliver to 18-34 males, who also represent about 30% of the total live streaming video audience.

Additionally, online video shouldn’t be mistaken for traditional TV and video content. With that being said, 41% of 18-34 year-olds watch live TV. With DVDs representing 15%, DVR at 12% and streaming video, via Netflix type sites, is at 7%. With 29% of those aged under 25 watching all or most of their TV on the web.

While all this is occurring, a full 15% of teens aged 12-17 and 18% of those aged 18-24 send over 200 text messages a day, which is about 6000 a month. Not to mention, the amount of emails, social media messages and the BlackBerry BBM use that might be occurring, amongst other forms of communication. And though 200 texts seems excessive, 29% of those same teens send over 100 text messages a day.

Call all this what you like. Sharing, connecting, or viewing, it can’t be denied Millennials are absorbing everything in their path. We have the executive decision to choose what we like. 5 to 10 years ago many of these numbers and aspects didn’t exist. And though they may have been using all this in some form then, the distinguishing fact here is that even though traditional outlets may have decreased they haven’t decreased to such a extent that everything else has been replaced with some new alternative. Rather, many of those levels still remain high while Millennials absorption of new-age technologies have been compounded on top.

Millennial Absorption

In the midst of writing my last blog post, I came across a Millennial theory that “rather than a sense of forward expansion, we’re seeing re-absorption and re-emergence of times past.” The impact of Millennial absorption is due the fact that Millennials are staying up to pace with everything that is being offered to them. As a result, Millennials themselves have reverted to absorbing many other aspects of what is currently available to them.

Even then new isn’t necessarily good enough. It’s the reason many of us watch classic sitcoms and re-runs. Or we simply watch an older DVD. Or spend our time online. Or download something. Or text. Or combine it all in one form or another. We do more while doing more. We are everywhere but we can’t be found. I can imagine how marketers, advertisers and brands must feel. At any given time, we can be online, watching TV and/or using our smart phones but you can’t reach us. Frustrating, isn’t it? There has been no greater time than now to have and execute the abilities of control and choice.

What’s most fascinating about all of this is the notion that all our sharing, connecting and viewing can actually be based on the premise of absorbing information. The Millennials have an uncanny ability to absorb. And much of what we do is done for the purpose of other individuals absorbing our information while we at same moment absorb what others have provided us. It’s a very cyclical and branched methodology. We do things to evoke a response, big or small. It’s the reason why we strategically share online. It’s the purpose behind everything we do. Why tweet? Why update Facebook? We all want people to see what we put up. Why bother otherwise? Why text if no one will text back?

But how much can we take? Like sponges, can we only absorb a certain amount of information? Will we ultimately over-flow and drown ourselves in content? Recent research shows our current lifestyle is changing our neurological processing patterns. So does that mean our minds will evenutally burn-out? Or continue to adapt and evolve? Call it a sense of higher sophistication, growing intelligence, need for attention, curiosity for the unknown or whatever else you like. One thing is for certain, as long as there is an urge, a need and a want for absorbing information, Millennials will continue to do what they do best. The question is, will you be able to keep up with them?

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"Why tweet? Why update Facebook? We all want people to see what we put up. Why bother otherwise? Why text if no one will text back?"

To be honest, for myself the posting to social media isn't always to "provoke a response". Sometimes it's to let it sit out there for those who wish to "get to know me." If an employer finds my Twitter or blog they can understand me & see I'm in touch. Other times it's only for me...I put it on the web "just in case" someone finds it, but often I use the web as a journal. I can go back through Twitter and see the evolution of my experiences in social media--and the evolution of social media itself, as a log detailing the changing web.
Notes on Facebook & blogs help me to "process" all that information. They clear my thoughts in the same way a conversation with another person may selflishly be to process my own thinking...a whiteboard for ideas if you will.
And, as my friend once said--Twitter is innately a narcisissistic platform.

"So does that mean our minds will evenutally burn-out?"

Humans have the largest brain to body mass of any other animal. Brain capacity must be used for sense, motor skills, involuntary reactions, and the remaining can be used for cognitive processing. Our brains evolve faster and grow larger than any other species. Probably there are genes in us that have a tendency to replicate, propelling our brain to body mass over time.

What does that mean? It means we have huge capacity to process. You then remove the amount of brain power previously spent on, hunting, gathering, fighting saber tooth tigers....finding the post office (Foursquare it!), and there's an enormous amount of "gigabytes" we've freed up.

I'm not a neurologist, but when you think there are people who lose half their brains to cancer, strokes, or accidents and can still function normally, I'd say we are light years away from our full potential.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

I agree with you Josip. Maybe this runs along the vein of forced adaptability for humans. Some technologies filter down from Older people to younger people: When you have to be rich to own. Like HDTV adaption started with the Boomers. We could not afford a $10,000USD TV but a 60 year old rich person who wants to show off can. HDTV never gave us competitive advantage.

For technologies that give a competitive advantage but maybe not for older people, younger people will adopt much faster. For example I had a guy who ran a past company who was 62. He hated email. Even using a computer. That was 2002-2007. By the time I left the company and he was 67 he was using a computer, email etc. My dad won't SMS Text. But these technologies give an advantage to young people trying to compete, forcing a sink or swim attitude.

Another example from that company I went on a Sales Ride Along with the East Coast Rep who was 61. I had just started and went to boston with him to meet some clients. One client asked a question wanting an update on an order for product. This was Thurs. He said 'I will be back in the Office on Monday and will get your answer'. I was thinking 'I would call via cell phone right now and get an answer' (He did not have a cell phone yet in 2002).

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

Very thought provoking post. Not sure if this is unique to Gen Y. I was slapped in the face by the Ad Contrarian this summer in one of his posts. I am trying to find it for you. I might have to ask him for the link since maybe the post title isn't the right clue. It basically said we all live in our own universe and thus think everyone behaves like us. Which often I based my theorems on what I see and do. He didn't say it was wrong...just be careful in assuming. For example 2 out of 3 US consumers did not use Social Media today (Twitter or Facebook) yet you and I are heavy users and see the BS hype in the news and those not too sharp might just assume everyone is.

That all being said this Absorption stuff runs counter to (In the US) the abnormally large percentage of youth who are on either drugs for ADD or Depression which not sure how that affects absorption of stimulus and information. And going to my previous paragraph you live in Canada and my view is US Centric which is much different.

Keep up the good work my friend!


Great comment Kari! I definitely understand your POV. And I can hardly disagree with it, considering everyone's social experience is simply different. But I will play the role of disagreer here.

As the devil's advocate, I would argue that no matter what we do online, we do for the sake of response. It's like our lives in the real world. Though there are many of us who don't around asking for attention or intentionally behave in a manner to gain acceptance, we all behave in a pattern to elicit some type of reaction no matter what that reaction maybe. Now with the online world, that has all been amplified to significant extremes. If everything is publicly visible it can no longer be considered person. With that being said, all our actions online can potentially elicit responses where as if you were to write personal notes in a personal book in the real world or even within a word doc, you would keep those thoughts to yourself. As the devil's advocate, I would say that everything we do online, when examined at it's lowest is done in a manner to elicit a response.

Now, to approach your 2nd point, I myself am no neurologist either, however, from reports that I've read, it's very uncertain to how your brains will adapt. There are clear indications that brain patterns are significantly different in younger Millennials because of how they've adapted to everything. With that being said neurological patterns usually take time to develop and we'll probably see that development sooner than ever before. No knows for certain if its good or bad nor can I suggest that. But like anything else, if you work something to hard, it will either breakdown or get better. Let's hope that for the better.


It definitely is interesting to see how functional things use to be but how functional they are now. That's why I very much believe it's a figment of our generation. As your comment points out, there are clearing differing views to the way we can go about our daily tasks. And for the record, my doesn't have a cell-phone or understand how to SMS either lol. I do believe all this technology does bring us a sense of advantage since frankly we live in it. However, how much technology will be enough technology? Does knowing more about it really help us? I guess time will tell, as usual.


Great comment! Your words are always thought provoking Howie, considering are minds function from two different perspectives. So I do always look forward to hearing what you have to say :).

With that being said, my notions on absorption are based beyond the simple assumptions and beliefs. What I'm trying to establish here almost runs parallel to the theory of "if you build it, people will use." As a result, we technically consume an incredible amount of content compared to a world of 10 years ago. Though that content is not the same for every person, the amount of information we absorb whether it be music, news, video, etc is a large and extensive amount.

Although you and I are from a savvier bunch, I can't help but notice growing trends amongst other. I hate to assume and never try to, hence my extensive amount of fact based numbers and research, but even with the points you bring forward I can't help but think absorption would be any different. Equally, we can all be categorized in a sense but even then I doubt there are actually people who absorb less as opposed to times past. Amongst other ideas within this argument.

And I will keep up the great work! Thanks for commenting and I look forward to your great comments as time moves on :)


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