2021. Happy Old Year to you and yours.
By Denise Kohnke, Chief Strategy Officer, Merit
Some thoughts about this past year, today, and time moving forward.
To understand the future, curiously, it helps to be a student of the past, a.k.a. perspective.
Think about this: 1980 and 2022 are just as far apart as 1938 and 1980. If you are 60 years old-ish you are closer to the 1800’s than you are to today. If you’re 35 you’re closer to the 1940’s than today. Marty McFly went to the past, which was 1955. If the movie was made today, the past he would have visited would be 1985. (Thank you for your genius, Tim Urban @waitbutwhy.com)
And then… kids today.
Each generation complains about kids today. It is a right of passage into adulthood, and not really damnation of any culture, child-rearing or presumption of en masse entitlement. Kids today in colloquial marketing terms are Gen Alpha. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Thankfully, they are not yet considered Gen Omega (the last letter, for those of you who opted for STEM rather than liberal arts).
Kids today are consumers of tomorrow:
- They grew up in a world where Amazon and Google are old-guard companies, not disrupters
- They play constantly as their education, since infancy, has been based on gamification
- They are addicted to social media, and will never interact like the rest of us know how to do
- They know that we’ve left them a damaged earth, and will be more personally sustainable
Speaking of liberal arts and the evolving nature of context based on when you were born, Merriam-Webster added 455 new words to the English living language this year. Official language evolves to reflect the quantitative incidence of word use, whether you personally like it or not. For instance, filler words such as “like” are now supposed to be culturally acceptable to include in conversation, which makes some of us resist evolution of any kind.
Some notable made-up dictionary additions that reflect our times:
- amirite, which is a faster way to say “am I right” (like we need that)
- deplatform, which is to remove or ban a user from a social platform (too late in coming)
- bit rot, which is when you can’t open old files (because you haven’t kept up your technology)
- whataboutism, which is defense by throwing someone else under the bus (see whataboutery)
- astroturf, which is what marketers do when they fake grassroots campaigns (legal fraud)
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) became a much bigger deal this year, with lots of early adopters making crazy money selling, well, um, like, images that are tagged by using blockchain technology so there is one “owner,” which will make the expression “one-of-a-kind” even though it can be replicated. It may be because we’ve run out of material things to buy, or, it may be because if George Washington’s signature on a piece of paper has collectible value, so Jack Dorsey’s first tweet (founder of Twitter). Bids on that tweet hit $2.5M. Hope we don’t get sued (which, via traditional logic, seems to be the only way you can get your money back other than selling it to someone else) but here it is:
So what’s the point of it all?
Happy Old Year. Tomorrow will be very different. Just go with it.