Snapchat-iquette, from the eyes of Millennials

By Alison Hillhouse,  MTV Insights

While Instagram feeds have been infiltrated by parents and grandparents, the world of Snapchat is still largely Millennial territory. Gen Xers and Boomers frequently ask us to decode Snapchat – why is it so popular? What does it entail beyond a constant barrage of selfies? 

First, Snapchat is much more than “just another app.” It lives in a unique sweet-spot for Millennials, providing a new level of intimacy while at the same time preserving a certain distance. The easiest way to think about it is falling somewhere between “real life conversation” and everyday social media feeds, which has interesting implications as to how Millennials are changing the way they communicate today.

We’ll explain more, but first, a tutorial:

Snapchat 101 – the basic mechanics: You snap a photo or short video, send it to your friend(s) and once they’ve opened, it dissolves within a few seconds… never to be seen again. You can also easily subvert the system with your phone’s “screen grab” function, and hold onto friends’ images forever (or at least until you lose your phone).

The new “Stories” feature allows you to create a public, daily feed of your activities, with photos/videos lasting a full 24 hours for friends to peruse. Some users are in love with it, some are already annoyed. As Hayley, 19 notes, “‘My Stories’ has become kind of annoying, like Facebook, where people post everything like ‘I just went to the nail salon.’”  Some also feel this function is more polished and planned than regular Snapchat, with people “trying too hard to show they are having fun at a party.”

So what do people Snapchat?

Snapchats tend to be selfies (usually awkward) or photos of “random” things accompanied by equally random captions.  One teen drew a face on a photo of an orange, and sent it along with the caption, “You are a good person.” A few teens talked about photos of themselves collapsed over homework with pained captions.  Caitlin, 22, snuck a photo of a guy with a puggle in his man-purse for her puggle-loving sister. And if you are in the heat of a Snapchat convo and can’t think of a good image to accompany what you need to say, you simply take a photo of your thigh or bedroom wall.   Artistic, well-thought-out photos are left to Instagram, where content is  more “official.”


The “Snapchat-iquette”

  1. Snapchat your crush first, text later. A group Snapchat is often an ice-breaker to one-on-one Snapchats, which are icebreakers to texting (where more “real” conversation happens). “It’s kind-of weird to text someone random, but you can Snapchat someone random and it’s seen as friendly,” Ellen, 19, explained.
  2. Don’t overdo selfies to people who aren’t your best friends.
  3. Selfies are best if they are raw, funny and awkward … unless to your crush. Millennials tell us about adjusting lighting, hair and makeup. Kayla, 17, says she used to spend eight minutes getting ready for a Snapchat to her now-boyfriend.
  4. Don’t send too many Snaps in a day, especially to a crush. You’ll look stalkerish.  One panelist capped it at “5 per day.”
  5. Be careful when you open videos in public. You have no idea what they contain.
  6. Don’t open a Snapchat immediately – again, this depends on the desired relationship you are looking to cultivate.  N/A if it’s your best friend. Definitely important if it’s your crush.
  7. Snapchat can offer a great opp to get status updates on exes, crushes and exes’ crushes. One college student notes, “I see my exes watching ‘My Story,’ which creeps me out, but is also flattering.”
  8. If you are out with other friends and Snapchatting, make sure not to send to an uninvited friend.

Why is it working?

Many reasons — the most interesting is that it’s actually a very personal form of communication. Millennials are looking for more intimate, “face-to-face” interaction in a world that’s increasingly virtual. The intimate, impromptu selfies make you “feel like you are just talking to someone.” But, Millennials also tell us that it simultaneously provides a bit of welcomed distance.

Snapchat also offers authentic, unpolished glimpses into someone’s life (or at least the impression of this… as noted above, sometimes shots are staged).

It lets you be lazy. You don’t have to think of something substantive to say or consider how it’s going to be interpreted. Snapchat helps you understand tonality much quicker than texting.  A teen said “A ‘hey’ over text can be really loaded, but if you see it over Snapchat with a photo you can tell that it’s a friendly ‘hey.’”  

And, it can even be highly resourceful. Sonali, 19, says, “Two of my friends who live on opposite sides of the country planned an entire vacation to Canada together solely through Snapchat!”

With all of the above, it’s no wonder that Gen Xers and Boomers are trying to understand what SnapChat is and why it’s so popular. The easiest way to sum it up – it’s personal, but not too personal. Welcome to the future of communication.


Everybody Hurts: Book Fandom and the Search for Realism in Young Adult Fiction

By Stephanie Monohan

When people think of Fandoms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fandom) in the Young Adult Fiction world, escapist, supernatural or fantastic stories like The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent come to mind. But in the seemingly endless ocean of supernatural romances and tales of dystopian futures exists an enclave of books that explore day-to-day tragedies and real life coming-of-age as opposed to saving the world and eternal undead love. And vibrant fandoms are growing around these tragically real, sometimes existentialist books. 

These touching, relatable stories about young love, loneliness, and even death are striking a chord with young readers (and many adults as well) who are looking for a bit more honesty in their fiction, but there’s something about the authors as well. Novelists like John Green, who penned Looking For Alaska and the YA sensation The Fault In Our Stars (currently being adapted into a feature-length film), and Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park and the more recent Fangirl, have developed rabid fan followings due to their openness and communication with their readers, as well as their own personal histories within fandom communities.


While the glut of YA fiction reminiscent of the massive Twilight and Hunger Games franchises often feels overwhelming, there are still many teens and young adults willing to let their hearts break a little for this engrossing fiction. YA readers seem hungry for stories that speak directly to their experiences and don’t sugar-coat the realities of not only growing up, but being alive.

Much of that has to do with these authors’ understanding of fan communities and their own unique engagement with their fans. John Green, for instance, regularly updates his hugely popular video blog series vlogBrothers while also taking time to interact with his fans on his personal Tumblr page, reblogging them and offering long, thought-out responses to their questions. Rainbow Rowell incorporated her own experiences with fandom into her latest novel Fangirl, which follows a girl who turns to online fandom to cope with her real-life problems, a journey that many people who become part of fandoms may recognize. 


This kind of connection is very important to young fans in general. The Millennials we talk to frequently emphasize the importance of celebrity/creator transparency and relatability. They have come to not only appreciate zero-distancing, but to expect it. They enjoy seeing not just the behind-the-scenes, but into the lives of the people creating their favorite pop culture. Plus, when it comes to books about serious subjects, or even just about growing up, it feels like the author is imparting advice in a personal way. As one of our panelists put it, “Now famous people can be your best friend.” (Julian, 23) Overall, this kind of closeness as well as the honest, yet humorous wisdom found in these stories is resonating with young readers and possibly jumpstarting a refreshing trend in young adult fiction. 


Digital Bookending

By Alison Hillhouse

Many have fallen prey to the narrative that Millennials choose to disengage with “real-world” experiences and spend 24/7 on technology. While we knew this wasn’t the case, we were surprised to find out just how much Young Millennials are actually seeking out hands-on, tech-free maker experiences, in our recent meta-study on the younger half of this demo. Whether it’s baking, crafting, woodworking or jewelry making, they tell us of the immense satisfaction they get from these immersive, self-soothing experiences. 

But tech isn’t entirely removed from these maker experiences, as Millennials engage in what we call “Digital Bookending” – research & documenting the before & after. The making of a duct tape wallet (a hot craft right now among girls and guys) involves first watching a how-to YouTube video for instructions, then immersing yourself in the craft, and finally capping it off with an Instagrammed photo to express yourself/get credit for your work/connect with peers on a deeper level. (motivations of course vary…)

Three of our panelists tell us about their “Digital Bookending” experiences:

1)  Alondra, 17, tells of her pop-art project, in which she first “looked at cool pop art pictures online… role models and important cultural figures.” She then chose to feature her role model Jenni Rivera, a famous Mexican-American singer whose life ended on Alondra’s birthday and recently wrote a #1 NY Times best-seller. Afterwards, she posted her creation to Instagram, where 68 friends were a fan of her work:

 2)  Gabrielle, 17, tells us about her duct tape prom dress, which took a whopping 100 hours of work! She says “I’ve always loved reptiles, and couldn’t think of a more awesome theme than dragons!” To prep her for the work, she went online and watched a Project Runway episode featuring duct tape dresses. Her process was very elaborate, including hand-cut flames and a wire-framed tail. Obviously, this was not only a sensation at the prom but also afterwards on Facebook.  

3)  Deven, 17, made a “plant cell cake.” He first went on YouTube to see how other people made cell models, and “observed how they structured and positioned various parts of the cell.” Deven also Instagrammed his final “Eukaryoptic Plant Cell.”

Brands can take advantage of “Digital bookending” by facilitating the before or after experience… whether that’s sponsoring DIY content or launching contests for Millennials to share creations. 

Millennials Speak: How This Generation Defines Itself

By Alison Hillhouse

Millennials are the most talked about generation in history – the web is overflowing with articles and studies on Millennial underemployment, Millennial tech addiction and the intricacies of dealing with Millennials in the workplace. There’s so much conversation that we now see listicles and infographs about how everyone can’t stop talking about Millennials, like CNN’s “Can we stop worrying about Millennials yet?”

That’s why we’ve dedicated this post to letting Millennials speak for themselves, about themselves. MTV Insights partnered with Survey.com to get 250 18-24 year olds across the country to text us a picture + description that reflects the hashtag: #weliveinagenerationthat. 

And here are some of our favorites…

Gay Millennials, Part 3: Running the Bases Backwards…With A Twist

By Matt Cohen,  MTV Insights


When it comes to their love lives, we have found that Millennials often “run the bases backwards” — meaning that sex comes first, and relationships come second (if at all.)  (See our previous post, “Love Stuck: The Meandering Path from Hook-Up to FBO”)  This same pattern seems to apply among Gay Millennials – but with one important twist: For Gay Millennials, it appears that hook-ups very often lead to new friendships.

While straight Millennials tell us stories of casual hook-ups who tend to go their separate ways after failing to make the transition from hook-up to relationship, we hear from Gay Millennials that hooking up often serves as a casual opener to starting a new friendship.

Jacob, 22, explains “Almost every single gay guy that I know goes through the exact same pattern: You meet someone you think is cute, you hook up with him, and if it doesn’t turn into romance, you become friends.”

“All of my friends and I hooked up with each other and then became best friends,” says Domenic, 19, who told us that hooking up with gay classmates served as a social ice-breaker of sorts during his freshman orientation week at college.  “When I got accepted to college, I joined the LGBT club for my school on Facebook…The first week of school we all slept with each other, and then we all became friends.”

Many of our panelists talk about how they have ended up with particularly “incestuous” social circles as a result of this behavior — meaning that many of their friends have dated or hooked up with each other in various combinations.  Because gay communities are typically small (particularly within the college bubble) it’s often difficult to avoid an ex or former hook-up buddy.  As a result, Gay Millennials seem to be making the best of a potentially awkward situation by viewing former hook-ups as potential new friends.

Jacob, 22, recalls “I was at a birthday party with a friend recently.  We were looking around the room, and we realized that either one of us had hooked up with almost everyone who was there and had become friends with them… It’s almost universal among everyone I know.”

Although their social circles may be fraught with complicated overlapping connections, Gay Millennials fortunately have a large pool to draw from when it comes to looking for new potential friends or romantic partners.  Whereas previous generations of gay youth congregated around local gay clubs or bars in order meet new people, many Gay Millennials now carry the proverbial gay bar with them in their pockets.  Thanks to the advent of digital tools like Grindr – the massively popular gay geo-location app which helps you find potential hook-ups in your vicinity – Gay Millennials can easily tap into a fresh network of romantic or platonic possibilities.

For those who aren’t using hook-up apps like Grindr, however, even a tool as simple as Facebook can help expand the gay social circle.  Many of the Gay Millennials we spoke to mentioned searching their Facebook networks when they first arrived at college in order to identify other gay classmates on-campus.  (With the recent introduction of Facebook’s Graph Search, this type of search is now easier than ever before.)  And even if you’re not looking for new gay friends, chances are they’ll find you as Steven, 22, explains “If you’re friends with any gay person on Facebook and you write on their wall, like 80 people will friend-request you.”


This is the third in a series of posts on Gay Millennials, in which we share our findings on the unique characteristics and experiences of this generation’s gay youth.  Check out our previous posts in this series:

Gay Millennials, Part 1: Beyond “Coming Out”

Gay Millennials, Part 2: “I’m Not Your GBF!”



The Social Media Landscape, Through the Eyes of Teens

By Alison Hillhouse

Over the past few years, there’s been much speculation as to which social media platform will net out as the “be all, end all’ space for teens. But as it turns out, we’ve seen the opposite – there’s been a continued fracturing as teens turn to diverse platforms for different needs and to engage with different groups of people. In MTV’s recent meta-study on Young Millennials, we asked 1,800 teens to rank how strongly a range of attributes correlated to each of 5 top social media platforms, so that we could “map” where these platforms live in their mental universe.

While certainly much of each platform’s utility has to do with the functionality of the site itself, we found some interesting nuances in how each of these play a role in Millennials’ lives:

Instagram: “My gallery and journal”- Instagram seems to be the spot associated with the most personal self expression, in terms of uploading original “selfie” photos and “things that I made.” Although “hearts” (for non-users, the feedback mechanism of Instagram) are extremely important, self-expression ultimately trumps feedback in this space. To our Millennials, Instagram is more than just slapping a filter on, as many non-users assume.  It’s about downloading apps to get the right lighting, composition and effect. As one Millennial put it, “Instagram is more pure, more artistic. On Facebook, people just post things they think will get them likes.”

Tumblr: “Brand Me Making” - Tumblr pulled slightly more to “sharing with strangers” over friends, and was equally useful in terms of achieving popularity and well as creatively expressing oneself.  We see thoughtful diary-like entries and carefully curated pages around themes like “all things neon” or “anglophile’s obsession.” So not surprisingly, the attribute “lets me curate a look or theme” ranked high, and at the same time, “lets me gain followers” was strong – alluding to many teens’ dream of achieving “Tumblr Famous” status (whether through creative self expression or simply being a teen hearththrob who garners fame from shirtless, bathroom-mirror-selfies, e.g Austin Stegman)

Facebook: “The Local Newsroom” – Across the board, Facebook does well across nearly everything we measured, but skews particularly high in allowing people to keep in touch with family and friends. “Likes” were also a big factor here, as Young Millennials saw it as a place to get a lot of feedback. As one Millennial put it, “I never post on Facebook unless I know it’s really funny and I’m going to get a lot of likes. Once I noticed I didn’t get over 17 likes in 5 minutes… and I regretted posting it.”

Twitter: “The Popularity Contest” – For most teens, the Twitter world is more-so a place to share with friends over strangers. While they may derive content from strangers, they are ultimately sharing with friends (and important to note, teens often consider celebrities to be more “friends” than strangers!) The drive for popularity was clear as “lets me gain followers” was the top attribute associated with Twitter.

Unlike on Facebook where teens keep in touch with friends & family about equally, Twitter is a place that lets you keep in touch with friends (49% agree) much more than family (26%)

YouTube: “Voyeuristic outlet” – While almost 60% of Millennials have made a video and posted it on YouTube, most of their YouTube experience is spent peering into the lives of others. The platform offers a space to interact with strangers, but also indirectly gain “likes” by sharing funny videos with friends in other social channels.  

And about “drama”….

One other area we explored was the level of “drama” that each platform involved… and naturally, the platforms most associated with popularity (Facebook and Twitter) involved the most.  High-schoolers throughout time have thrived off voyeuristic drama and gossip… as long as they aren’t at the center of it (Note: we’re talking “garden variety drama” and not digital bullying.) Alise, 17, says “I think everyone loves watching people argue on Facebook. Even people who say they hate drama.” Hunter says “I like seeing FB drama … seeing people’s secrets unfold.”

Millennial Biz Bite: The Boobypack, A Top Shelf Fannypack

BY: Jillian Curran


What is the boobypack, you ask? The boobypack is an ‘upscale fannypack” created by Christina Conrad to revolutionize the festival-going experience and solve the problem…” Where to put my keys and wallet while fist pumping?!”  MTV Insights often highlights Millennial businesses and we couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. After talking to Conrad, we realized just how much her business speaks to common traits of entrepreneurs of this generation.

When Life Gives You Skrillex, Make a Boobypack

Start with a passion. Many Millennial entrepreneurs  tell us that their business evolved out of a passion or interest that they hoped would one day be their job. We found that 3 in 4 Millennials agree that even if they have a job, it’s important to have a side project, that could eventually become a career. Conrad is no exception, seeing the opportunity to optimize on a common problem she saw at her favorite festivals…the lost cell phone. She says, “ the Boobypack offers a fun, slightly silly solution that keeps your things safe. I wear a Boobypack whenever I go to the gym or a concert and it makes me feel completely free. It’s weird to think an item of clothing could change your psyche but it does.”

After her “AHA” moment, Conrad wasted no time. “One night when I was talking about this with my girlfriends, I thought of the name and the tagline– Boobypack, a top-shelf fannypack– and decided to run with the idea in the morning.”   In today’s world, why let a good idea sit when starting a blog or creating a video is just a click away. Conrad admits it’s been a lot of responsibility so far, but is excited about the new opportunity. “Of course there’s something to be said for paying your dues and slowly climbing up the ladder, but I’m part of a generation that likes to move a lot faster.”

Crowdfund with a Twist

Make it creative and make it count. Sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have been bombarded with young business owners who are innovating the elevator pitch. Making fun and creative content alongside a powerful business plan is how they are catching the eyeballs of their peers. They are also giving back. Knowing this relationship with their consumer is give and take, they are offering co-creative opportunities like being a part of the decision-making process, attending the launch party or even some out of the box incentives like “coming to your town and throwing a grilled cheese party

Sites like Kickstarter offer a close connection with the customer which Millennials are striving for. They want to feel like they are impacting their audience and a real and authentic way, as 72% say they have a real desire to create things that other people love.

Millennials know the power the consumer has to virally bring ideas to the surface. Kickstarter can also act like a social media platform to bring attention to their pitch. Conrad says, “People who fund Kickstarter projects really believe in innovation and small startups and helping the little guy succeed….I pitched the Boobypack story to a bunch of different websites and magazines to no avail and then when we more than doubled our fundraising goal on Kickstarter, Jezebel picked up the story, then Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Perez Hilton, Barstool Sports and others followed suit.”


The Boobypack In Beta.

Put the product out there, and see what happens. A common mentality we see among young entrepreneurs is put it out there, get feedback and then iterate, iterate, iterate. In an ever-evolving world, they have a deep understanding of permanent beta, testing it with the audience as a partner and creating a product that is versatile. Keith Systrom, founder of Instagram echoes this sentiment saying, “Plan A is never the product that entrepreneurs end up with.”

The boobypack, although originally aimed at athletes and concert goers is actually serving customers Conrad never expected. “Diabetics have messaged me saying it’s a fantastic vessel for their insulin pumps. Backpackers and world travelers have told me it’s a great way to avoid pickpockets. How about a version where the pocket is completely water-proof? Or one where the pocket is made out of an e-textile and it would actually charge your phone?  I love the idea of a company starting small and then growing organically into something truly noteworthy. So I hope that in 5-10 years Boobypack will be at a place where we are really surprising people.”

Check out Christina’s Booby Pack and her new Ambassador Program where those who sign up and refer customers, get a 10% revenue share in Boobypack.com. Boobypack has sold nearly 1,200 Boobypacks and after the Kickstarter and Fab.com sales they’ve completely sold out of inventory!


You can learn more about the Boobypack at:


And follow Christina Conrad and the Boobypack on TwitterL


Millennial Passion Collision: Baking Meets Fandom

By Stephanie Monohan

It is no secret that geek culture has gone mainstream. Millennials, especially those on the younger end of the generation, have grown up learning that not only is it acceptable to have obscure, niche, or “nerdy” interests; those things can actually make you really cool.

We’ve also been seeing a lot of creativity surrounding geek culture and fandom, with young fans expressing their love for beloved shows, movies, comics, etc. and getting lots of feedback. One can find Millennials sharing this blend of fandom and maker culture on sites like Tumblr, but some fans have taken their fandom creations to the next level by creating businesses around their fandom self-branding.

Ant Roman of Nerdache Cakes (photo from Seventeen Magazine)

Ant Roman, 20-year-old cake decorator and owner of Nerdache Cakes, is one such fan. In a recent piece from Seventeen Magazine, we read about this self-proclaimed fan of “Superheroes, British Detectives, Doctors who travel in the depths of Space and Elementary School Cartoons.” She tells MTV Insights that she was a super-fan before she started baking: “I was born with nerd passion. Comic books were a huge love of mine. Star Wars was big when I was a kid, along with Sailor Moon. Fighting evil in cute outfits was all I have ever wanted to do.”

As a Millennial with a natural bent towards crowd-sourcing, she accepts a weekly baking challenge from one of her online followers and attempts to recreate her favorite characters in sweet form. She says, “Every week it’s Star Wars cupcakes, TARDIS cookies, and classic comic cupcakes. I won’t look twice at a purse cake – not nerdy enough for me! It that purse has a Batarang and a lipstick gun, however, that’s a different story.”

Teen Wolf cake

Fans contribute to and interact with their favorite fandoms in a variety of creative ways, most frequently through artwork, fan fiction, videos, music, etc. Nerdache Cakes is such an interesting project because it is not simply a baking business with a twist, but also a creative fandom outlet for Roman: “We all have a way that we contribute to fandom. I guess cake is mine! It really does make you feel like you are a part of something larger, with people who really appreciate your work.”


Check out Ant Roman’s work at www.nerdachecakes.com and follow her on Twitter at @nerdachecakes