We are living in an era of digitization which is epitomised by the presence of a smartphone in almost every other millennial hand, eyes glued to the screen, neck tilted down and an air of virtual euphoria all around. The narrative might seem a bit exaggerated but if you take a pause from your screen time to look around, you would observe reality testifying the above statement.
Welcome to a world quintessentially driven by technological dependence and digital dexterity. Welcome to the world of a millenial whose hierarchy of needs has been redefined in the digital age.
Maslow had given a hierarchy of needs categorised as Physiological, Security, Social, Esteem and Self Actualisation represented in a pyramid. The way up to the top of the pyramid reflects the increase in the complexity of the need and a satisfaction of a lower level need. It is intriguing how a typical millennial comprehends this hierarchy, starting from the most fundamental need to the more complex ones, in the age of digitization.
These fundamental needs are essential for the survival of an individual and are placed right at the bottom of the pyramid. Maslow defined these basic needs as food, shelter, water etc.
For a millennial, these are symbolised by electronic gadgets such as a smartphone or a laptop, network coverage, availability of Wi-fi(to survive any situation or company in life) and of course fully charged battery for these gadgets.
The next level needs are safety needs that represent the sense of security that an individual seeks and for a millennial these are represented by Google maps(to reach any destination using the directions on the map), Google search engine(The Omniscient God who knows it all), Security passwords(to propagate privacy and covert behaviour) and Mail Inbox(for digital documentation and vouching).
As we move a level up further in the pyramid, social needs surface. These needs represent the need for affiliation and belonging. These are driven by social media platforms such as WhatsApp(staying connected), Facebook(the high on getting reactions to the pictures, videos, stories,check-ins shared), Skype(for making video calls transcending geographies) and Tinder(for satiating the need for romantic companionships and dating preferences). These platforms have over shadowed the conventional social need fulfilled by forging friendships, reference groups etc.
The need for being appreciated, valued and recognized are classified as Esteem needs. It is interesting how the social media plays a significant role in building the esteem need of a millennial. Sharing of pictures, videos and stories on Instagram after using multiple filters for enhanced beautification, Quirky Snapchat filters and stories, creating a buzz by crisp tweets on the Twitter handle have become the new age esteem needs. Going viral gives an unparalleled and unprecedented kick to the esteem needs of the millennial.
Self Actualisation Needs
These needs are placed right at the top of the pyramid representing the pinnacle. LinkedIn(a platform for professional networking and strengthening your profile in the job market), Pinterest(A catalogue of ideas that enables the users to discover what they would love to do) and YouTube(a platform which enables you to convert your passion into a profession by creating videos and reaching out to millions) symbolize the new age self actualisation needs.
Digitization has indeed propelled the millennials to re-define their Need hierarchy and align it with the present day virtual need fillers in the form of technology and social media handles. Social media has become an indispensable part of life - a fact that just can't be ignored. However what emerges as a cause of concern here is the evidently visible disconnect from the real world. Millennials have started seeking solace in virtuality for gratifying all their needs. This has triggered an epidemic in the form of severe addiction and is spilling out disturbing behavioural patterns. What's even more alarming is the lack of realization and acceptance of the same.
Technology and Social media platforms do have their pros. They have definitely made life better by creating values of convenience, enriching experiences, faster success rate, unprecedented growth opportunities, envious success stories etc. However the implicit costs involved are too grave to be ignored.
This novel perspective on Maslow's need hierarchy theory highlights the intertwining of millennial life and technology & social media. Let's see what fate has in store for this alliance.