Being unapologetically yourself is #GoalsAF. At least according to the majority of 16- 24-year-olds interviewed across 14 countries for Youth in Flux, Viacom’s Global Consumer Insights study exploring youth culture and identity. In today’s chaotic world, global youth overwhelmingly agree that trying to be anything other than yourself just doesn’t fit the mold they’ve set for themselves.
Which is why Viacom’s Global Consumer Insights team was focused on developing a better understanding as to how they stayed true to themselves while also trying to find their way in an unpredictable climate.
“Teens and young adults have always been key to Viacom’s business and our brand portfolio,” explains Christian Kurz, senior vice president of Global Consumer Insights. “With this new and exciting project, we’ve unearthed fresh learnings about how young people are responding to the uncertainty around them. It really goes beyond borders, beyond ethnicity, beyond religion, and even beyond gender.”
Thanks to technology, young people are coming of age in a borderless society with the world literally at their fingertips. An election circus in America, terrorist attacks throughout Europe, and even a trivial hip hop war of words no longer play out in print, but rather on social media. The world is watching in real time, and young people feel pressure to have an opinion or take a stand. That’s why 93 percent of respondents feel like it’s hard being a young person in today’s society.
Living in a perpetual state of hyperawareness, young people have learned to adapt by being as fluid as the world around them—rejecting binary structures like gender, religion, and ethnicity—and making up new rules as they go. In fact, 95 percent of the 7,000 youth surveyed worldwide feel their generation believes in inclusion and equality. But, as the study reveals, there’s still a wide gap between their hopes and aspirations and the reality of today’s political climate, with just 36 percent feeling confident that their generation will actually be less judgmental than previous ones.
To navigate these challenges, researchers identified three life strategies respondents used fluidly to survive and thrive in a broken world: unapologetic, sensitive, and restless.
“I think the most important thing in life is to be okay with yourself, to be honest, and to trust other people.” —Franciszek, 18, Poland
Unapologetic & Proud
This sentiment of daring to be yourself despite what society dictates defines respondents who identified as primarily unapologetic. Eighty-four percent said, “I embrace genuineness and I do not want to pretend to be something I am not.” No more picture-perfect selfies. These young people are lifting the veil to reveal their authentic selves with confidence. And they appreciate others who “show their vulnerable and ugly side,” too.
“What troubles me in the world is everything. It’s just all so bad. I worry about humanity.” —Molly, 17, Australia
Sensitive & Self-Aware
While these youth are not afraid to call something BS when they see it, they do have enough self-awareness to embrace differences and be sensitive, too. Building meaningful relationships, advocating for social justice, and aspiring to change the world is important to global youth, who identified sensitivity as their primary life strategy. Eighty-four percent of these young people acknowledged that, “I think it’s important that I contribute something positive to the world.” The overwhelming majority also agreed that they “respect those who take a stand for others.
“I’m a very introverted person in real life. I’m definitely not as extroverted as I come off on Instagram.” —Lulu Bonfils, 19, Instagram star
Restless & Approval-Seeking
With the world changing at a rapid pace, it’s not hard to understand why youth feel restless. Being able to create their own reality comes with an overwhelming desire to try harder, to be better than others, and to be #First. Eighty-eight percent of respondents who identified with restlessness bought into the statement, “I appreciate people who chase their dreams and are willing to do whatever it takes.” They also seek the approval and praise of others to stay on point, with 84 percent of them admitting compliments from others motivate them to make the most of their life.
The Superhero Effect
Interestingly, these life strategies are fluid in context and don’t apply all the time because today’s youth refuse to be pigeonholed. Ninety-percent of youth surveyed said they switch seamlessly from one life strategy to another based on context, like their mood, who they’re with, or what they want to achieve. This heightened adaptability is something Viacom researchers likened to a superpower in their ability to use versatility as a tool for navigation.
“Youth today are optimistic but also realistic about the challenges they face and the opportunities that exist in the future,” explains James Guerrier, director of Global Consumer Insights. “It’s this careful balancing act that makes them aspire to be and do more, but also hyperaware that they have to forge their own path to make that a reality.”
And while their environment might remain in a constant state of flux, today’s youth are more than prepared to evolve if it means making their goals and dreams a reality. But that evolution will also be distinctly theirs based on how they choose to personally navigate the complex and ever-changing world we live in.
For more information go to Youth in Flux and watch below.