By Melissa Kandel
A friend asked me yesterday if it was possible to sprain her thumbs from excessive text messaging.
“Of course you can’t,” I told her confidently, even though I had no idea. She shrugged, satisfied, and returned to her phone. We had met for a late afternoon coffee and these were our first words exchanged. For the better part of an hour, we sat in the corner of an almost-empty café, untouched lattes between us, phones in hand, silent except for the soft taps of fingertips on glass screens. Was this really the portrait of modern friendship?
Maybe. Or, maybe not. In a recent study of workplace expectations conducted by American Express and Millennial Branding, 62% of millennial-age employees surveyed felt that in-person meetings are the preferred way to communicate with superiors. Some might be surprised by this statistic—20-somethings who actually want to talk to me? Others will understand it as a byproduct of a densely digital world that while slick and prolific, is still figuring out how to play nice with a professional workforce adjusting to its sometimes-capricious ways.
It’s no secret that younger generations whittle away hours each day liking Instagram photos, posting status updates and sending tweets. The implications of these familiar behaviors are well-documented and often make national news: Experts Declare the Art of the Conversation Dead, (or at the very least traveling on an unbending path toward destruction). Yet, amid Snapchat stories and hashtag hysteria, there is a glimmer of resistance, a more subtle communication renaissance, arriving by way of a simple notion that no 140-character message can constrain: Some things must be said out loud.
Don’t get me wrong, brilliant dialogue can—and does—happen exclusively online. The proliferation of powerful social media platforms almost mandates it, streamlining communication so that hearty, pointed conversations are allowed to take place. Still, there’s a lot of cyber clutter left in the wake of nonsensical flurries of tweets or blurry food photos, and if there was ever a time when too much information was available, that time would be now. Millennials—dubbed “digital natives” for growing up in a time when new technologies aren’t something to adapt to and instead simple life-truths always known—are affected most by this present age of information saturation, and in small but significant ways, they’re fighting back.
For the real estate industry, this battle translates into an ongoing process to create harmony between a generation of digital natives and those steeped in experience and time-tested knowledge. In fact, it is this very dilemma that caught the attention of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ REthink Council—agents and brokers chosen by the network for their proven skills and innovative spirit—when it met early June in Breckenridge, Colorado.
The meeting proved a veritable two-day dialogue on the present condition of the real estate industry and what can be done to move it forward; candid conversations layered by strong opinions either upheld or denied. Phones (for the most part), were kept at bay, laptops and tablets (generally) left unopened, and there in a small wood-paneled room 10,000 feet above sea level, it was just quiet enough to hear yourself think.
And that was exactly the point.
Because if there’s one grand takeaway to procure from the rapid-fire integration of social media into the lives of millennials worldwide, it’s that they crave the ability to hear and be heard. Facebook or Twitter may be the preferred mediums to share these ideas, (however banal or remarkable the content), but once the dust of social media settles—like in a rustic space high in the Rocky Mountains—the fact remains that they’ve got a whole lot to say. But why should anyone listen?
Here’s one answer offered by Harvard University’s The State of the Nation’s Housing 2014 report: “Millennials will form tens of millions of new households over the coming decade,” the study recently declared, approximating that 24 million new millennial households will develop between 2015 and 2025. “[Millennial] preferences and opportunities will reshape demand.”
In other words, the future of real estate is housed within a generation as digital as it is diverse; a group ready to take on the world and change it, whether this happens from a mountaintop in Colorado or a quiet coffee shop on a late afternoon, sprained thumbs and all.
MELISSA KANDEL is senior writer in the Communications / PR department at HSF Affiliates LLC. She also manages the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Prudential Real Estate social media sites and is the corporate coordinator of the REthink Council. Find her on Twitter @misskandel or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.