Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.

A new book says that not all of the “shaping” has been good.

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A week or so ago, when Apple celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the iPhone and launch of iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook boasted:

Having sold over one billion units and enabling millions of apps that have become essential to people’s daily routine …

The iPhone redefined how consumers live, work, communicate, and entertain.

I chalked it up as marketing hype, but then …

I started reading a recently released book (coincidence?) called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

The author is Jean Twenge, a psychology prof with a specialty in “generational differences” who is credited with coining the newest generation “iGen”.

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Prof Twenge agrees with Cook’s basic claim that the iPhone has redefined life.

But, she argues, not all of the redefinition is positive … specifically highlighting the decline in in-person social interaction and a sharp rise in mental health issues among iGens.

Let’s start at the beginning ….

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Prof. Twenge says:

Around 2012, I started seeing large, abrupt shifts in teens’ behaviors and emotional states.

In all of my analyses of generational data—some of it reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

At first I wondered if these were random blips that would disappear after a year or two.

But they didn’t—the trends kept going, creating sustained, and often unprecedented, trends.

As I dug into the data, a pattern emerged: many of the large changes began around 2011 or 2012.

That was too late to be caused by the Great Recession, which officially lasted from 2007 to 2009.

Then it occurred to me: 2011–12 was exactly when the majority of Americans started to own cell phones that could access the Internet, popularly known as smartphones.

The product of this sudden shift is iGen.

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So, who are these iGen people?

According to Prof. Twenge:

Born in 1995 and later, they grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet.

The oldest members of iGen were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and high school students when the iPad entered the scene in 2010.

The i in the names of these devices stands for Internet, and the Internet was commercialized in 1995.

They are the first generation for whom Internet access has been constantly available, right there in their hands.

If this generation is going to be named after anything, the iPhone just might be it: according to a fall 2015 marketing survey, two out of three US teens own an iPhone, about as complete a market saturation as possible for a product.

iGen includes 74 million Americans, about 24% of the population.

iGen is the most ethnically diverse generation in American history: one in four is Hispanic, and nearly 5% are multiracial.

Non-Hispanic whites are a bare majority, at 53%. The birth years at the end of iGen are the first to have a nonwhite majority:

And yes, even if they are lower income: teens from disadvantaged backgrounds now spend just as much time online with their smartphones.

The average teen checks her phone more than eighty times a day.

As one iGener put it: “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

Prof. Twenges grand conclusion: “The complete dominance of the smartphone among teens has had ripple effects across every area of iGen’ers’ lives, from their social interactions to their mental health.”

We’ll dive into that conclusion in subsequent posts …

#HomaFiles

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One Response to “Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.”

  1. John H Carpenter Says:

    I am going to be interested to see how the new mental health issues are going to be blamed on technology when in this post it documents massive changes in other, perhaps more socially relevant, changes to the basic racial and ethnic makeup of the United States. Coping with that would seem to be a valid probable cause. I think the US comes to grips with it’s long history or racial inequality in phases. I think another has just started. That phase may be influenced by social media in general but I am not sure social media or technology could be labeled as the base cause. Gonna be a tough proof.

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