By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights

The 8th deadly sin according to Millennials…“trying too hard” in social media, especially when it comes to photo sharing. 

Posting requires a careful balancing act between presenting a good version of yourself but not trying too hard…. between revealing your personal life but not overdoing it… between capitalizing on share-worthy opportunities but not taking too much advantage of them. Getting the balance wrong can impact your social standing, particularly among teens who tend to over-analyze every move peers make.

When asked about the most “predictable” Instagram behaviors right now, our panelists told us about instances in which peers were trying just a little too hard to look good, get likes or paradoxically, appear casual. At MTV, we refer to this as “Predictagramming.”

Our panelists have shared with us some of the latest Predictagrams that have saturated their feeds and gotten under their skin:

Sneaky selfies:

  • “Posting photos that make you wonder ‘who is taking your pictures?’ Like photos of you ‘candidly’ brunching, behind you as you ‘walk’ down the street as your Loubotuins flash me, etc.”


  • “When people COMPLAIN & BRAG in the same sentence or post, for example: ‘It was a really tough decision, and I hated having to turn down some great job opportunities… even though I could graduate in 3 years, I’ve decided to stay and do all 4.”
  • “On-purpose ugly selfies with downgrading captions because people are trying to get compliments”


  • ”When people use all the filters it’s obvious and embarrassing, especially for a selfie”

 Strategic #hashtagging:

  • “One of my biggest pet peeves is when girls do their boyfriends for #mcm (Man crush Mondays)… as if we didn’t already know you had a crush on this guy because you are DATING him.”
  •  “Non-ironic use of hashtags, except when necessary (like names of places). If you have to hashtag ‘nails’ or ‘dress’ in every picture I am annoyed.”
  • “TBT, MCM, WCW or any other made-up day as an excuse to post more pictures (like National Siblings Day?)”


  • “Monitoring weight loss via half naked selfies”
  • “When someone checks in so much they are stalkable”
  • “Posting a clever gym status faithfully every day”

 Gaming the system:

  • “When people or companies buy thousands of followers on Twitter/Facebook and you can tell because no one engages with their content. So unethical!”
  • “Scheduled tweets that are obvious”
  • “When people post something and realize it’s not getting the attention they want, so they take it down and put it back up later at a more strategic time.”


  • “When girls find ways to somehow morph into giraffes and find a way to angel their neck into a photo.”

5 Ways Millennials Stayed Psyched for Sochi

By Stephanie Monohan

Gen Y has a lot of love for the Olympics, something we’ve examined before, but Sochi offered its own unique fun. Here are five ways in which Millennials engaged with the 2014 Winter Olympics:

1. Shipping Skaters

The fervor over figure skating is an Olympics fandom on its own level. Millennials seemed particularly excited about watching couples skating this year, and with this level of emotional intensity it’s easy to see why. Fans had fun shipping the skating partners and creating romantic narratives to match the physicality they saw on screen.

2. Documenting Viewership

People kept up on the games in their spare time and….in their not-so-spare time too. And they made sure others knew too.

3. Parties

Parties were popular, for the opening ceremony in particular, and it was common to see Millennials Instagramming social gatherings, as well as their patriotic (and not just for the U.S.A.!) outfits. 

4. Hashtags

Staying on top of trending hashtags was crucial if you wanted to be in on the conversation, especially with #SochiProblems. Americans really kept their eyes peeled for Russia to drop the ball as hosts, focusing on mistakes in the opening ceremony and cultural differences in the facilities.

5. Memes

Lest we forget! Even if you didn’t tune into the Sochi Games, it was hard to escape some of these. 

(the modern classic: Doge)

(figure skaters in action)

(Sochi’s breakout face: Ashley Wagner)

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. 


Bakers, Makers and Vampire Stakers: How Young Millennials Engage in “Maker Culture”

By Alison Hillhouse


MTV recently conducted a meta-study on the younger end of the Millennial demographic to understand how teens today are different than their 20-something counterparts. Among many of the findings in ” The New Millennials Will Keep Calm and Carry On ,” MTV uncovered how teens across the US are adopting “maker” culture (once attributed to niche corners of Brooklyn and Silver Lake) … in spite of the stereotype that all they do is plug into laptops and iPhones.

A bit of background: Young Millennials (aged 13-17 in 2013) have always been conscious of the chaotic, hyper-competitive world that has slowly become a reality for the rest of us over time.

They know nothing other than an economic downturn, and are aware from a young age that the world is a hyper-competitive place – from college admissions to a tight job market. Bombarded in social media by images of Boston Bombings, Sandy Hook School, tornados and hurricanes, they’ve been raised in an “always-on” world where they are tapped into multiple feeds 24/7 and perpetually responsible for maintaining their online personal presence. To a Boomer or even Xer, this kind of “coming-of-age” sounds downright exhausting.

But this generation of youth is surprisingly adapting just fine. They’ve developed their own coping mechanisms to self-soothe, de-stress and de-stimulate. In MTV’s research, one of the coping mechanisms we observed is that teens today are unexpectedly choosing to take a break from “multi-tasking” and instead “mono-task,” meaning focus on immersive hands-on activities, like baking, sewing or crafting.

In fact, 57% like to take a break from technology to make things with their hands… and 82% agree “when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I like to stop and just do one thing at a time.” As Julia, 17 puts it “When I craft I’m in the zone, it really soothes me.”

But this doesn’t mean they completely abandon technology in the before and after moments that bookend their making experiences.

They study up in an endless library of DIY YouTube videos, learning how to hand craft books or sew custom iPad cases. They delve deep into Reddit forums to find the perfect way to brown butter with sea salt for chocolate chip cookies, as explained to us by 17-year-old baker Angela, author of Nagel’s Bagels. They watch hours of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Netflix to understand the intricate dynamics of vampire stake making, as told to us by 13-year old Alice who whittles various types of stakes in her spare time.

And the important finishing touch? An Instagram photo of their creation to show the world the 7-layer cake that took 2 hours to bake and 5 minutes to eat. With social media, crafts & baked goods are granted a “second life” and serve an important function in helping hone one’s personal self-brand. We see teens today even more adept at developing their unique persona from a young age, realizing both the need to stand out to get social media likes and, moreover, showcase a unique side to get noticed in a highly competitive college admission process.

What we’re beginning to see is an emergence of “tech homesteaders,” who are nearly perpetually plugged in but carving out spaces to detach and return to the roots of humanity and do things by hand. The pickling, cheese-making and crafting movement we’ve seen in niche urban pockets seems to be finding appeal with these young teens across the country, with 8 in 10 agreeing “sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things.”


This piece was originally published on Media Biz Bloggers


Intergenerational Twitter Wars

By Stephanie Monohan

The adult vs teen “generation wars” are heating up in social media. It seems everyone is hyper-consious of generational stereotypes, and ready to get in on critiquing other generations. A few recent examples: 

The hashtag #followateen resurfaced last week, encouraging adults to follow a random teenaged Twitter-user and post about what they find.

It seems that many of those who used the hashtag may not have actually followed teens, but the punchline ultimately was that teens and young adults overshare on social media, are opinionated about things are only relevant to their age-group, and sprinkle their language with emojis, which equally confound and amuse adults. However, it didn’t take long for teens to strike back, led by their fearless leaders of Rookie Mag:

The #followateen vs. #followanadult phenomenon occurred merely a few days before Time Magazine published its much-discussed cover story, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” Intelligent, well-researched critiques of Joel Stein’s piece surfaced immediately, but perhaps the best response (or at least the funniest) can be found in #followanadult.

So as we are in “generational-hyperconsious mode” it appears. Boomers seem to have adopted a 2013 version of “kids these days…”. While Millennials, on the other hand, find it ironic that equally tech-addicted Boomers make fun of youth tech use.  In the past, generations socialized more in separate spaces, making this generational tension a little less obvious…but now one of the unexpected by-products of Twitter ubiquity might be its use as the new battleground of intergenerational conflict!

Safe Sex 2.0?

By Matt Cohen, MTV Insights


In true Millennial fashion, the students behind the recently-launched “NYU Hook Ups” Facebook page are taking an organized and responsible approach to…well, anonymous sex.  Tackling their new venture with the same dedication and efficiency they’d normally reserve for an extracurricular activity, these students are helping classmates hook up faster and smarter.

Why waste time scanning through hundreds of OKCupid profiles when you can post anonymously on NYU Hook Ups and wait for the “Likes” from potential hook up buddies to roll in?

Some of “NYU Hook Ups” safety and efficiency features include:

  • a 2-step verification process to confirm that hook-up seekers are actual NYU students (No need to open yourself up to Craigslist randos  when you can stay within the safety of your college bubble)
  • a commitment to keeping post-ers “100% anonymous” and to “hook[ing] you up in less than 24 hours” (Sure beats Match.com’s six-month guarantee)
  • an advisory urging users to “be careful” and “always make sure to use condoms” (Thank you free NYC condoms!)

As Millennials take unexpectedly responsible approaches towards other “taboo” or “rebellious” behaviors – whether it’s serving as the sober “babysitter” for a friend who is planning to get wasted or using home testing kits to make sure their molly is free of “harmful substances” – this generation is truly redefining what it means to have “good clean fun.”

UPDATE: NYU Hook Ups announced yesterday that they will be transitioning over to a full site with a more sophisticated interface.  Could we be witnessing the birth of a new start-up?


The LOL Democracy

As the election draws to a close, @MTVInsights asked our college interns to tell the story of how their generation has engaged with this election over social media. Many have coined this the “first social election”… and for first time voters like our interns, they know nothing else. Millennials have been sharing witty memes and Tweefs (def: beefs in Twitter), as well as smartly utilizing online resources to fact check and discover their presidential soul mate.

Our interns Carly Ivrey and Hannah Nicklas share the most frequent kinds of political posts grazing the walls of their social media accounts…

1.  Vote for Meme!

The presidential debates have allowed Millennials to go crazy creating GIFs and memes to express our opinions on politics. Even if a meme comes with a point of view, it’s usually more based on ribbing the subject’s reputation rather than policy, so supporters from both sides might be able to have a laugh.

2. Tweets

During most of the debates, Millennials live Tweeted their opinions about what was happening on screen.  They also poked fun at some of the crazier things politicians said by creating fake twitter accounts like @FiredBigBird and @RomneysBinders.

3. InstaPrez

Instagram users got political by posting photos of things like their morning coffee in 7-Eleven’s “candidate cups,” their friends in politician costume masks, and images of their laptops as they watched a candidate’s speech

4. YouTube/YouVote

While many humorous political videos have been made by previous generations (and SNL shows little sign of slowing down), Millennials took it into their own hands to create something entertaining and kind of (but not really) informative.  Some of our favorites:

·      Mitt Romney Style” (a parody of “Gangnam Style”)

·      99 Problems Explicit Political remix” (a mash-up of videos clips that produce President Obama’s take on Jay-Z’s hit) are a few examples of popular political viral videos.

·      “Epic Rap Battles: Romney vs Obama” (Romney + Obama duke it out rap style)

5. "Dot Gov"

Sometimes we take a whole domain name to get a laugh, with these faux-sanctioned websites like RomneyTaxPlan.com and TextsfromMitt.com.

6. Finding a Presidential Soul Mate

On a serious note, quiz websites like ISideWith.com helped many Millennials, us included, to figure out which candidate really mirrored our opinions. These were a great stepping stone for us to learn more about the candidates, and with the sharing app, it was a great way to learn more about friends’ views too!

7. "Flack-checking"

Fact-checking is extremely important to Millennials, since we were raised on Google.  People posted tons of videos from FlackCheck.org showing what candidates said and revealing the truth behind their statements. Plus these videos run no longer than a minute, making them perfect for our ADD generation.

Romney vs. FactCheckers on Food Prices

Obama vs. FactCheckers on the Effects of the Obama Budget

Whatever our opinions may be, whatever our approach may be, we all used our technology-savvy skills to make sure we were heard leading up to the election. Plus, it gave us another reason to keep humming the tune of “Gangnam Style”.