“You Like Me, You REALLY like me!”

If you follow BridgeWorks at all, you may have noticed that over the past year or so we’ve gone through a huge rebranding initiative.

As part of this process, we had our headshots taken for our website relaunch. It was a far cry from our previous round—my last headshot was essentially a selfie—and I was so impressed by the results that I decided to post mine to Facebook as my new profile picture. Within about a day I had 37 “likes,” including one from my high school prom date!

Now this is not easy to admit, but I was strutting around my home and BridgeWorks HQ with a certain amount of pride. I felt like Sally Field said at the 1985 Oscars when she won Best Actress for Places in the Heart, “You like me, you REALLY like me.”* Of course, for the typical American teenager, 37 likes is child’s play. They score hundreds of likes a day for posts much less impressive than a professional headshot.

A recent documentary on PBS’s frontline spotlighted this obsession and the “like me” generation, going so far as to dub them “Generation Like.” Not only are teenagers, which are members of the generation born after 1996 that we're calling “Generation Edge,” actively seeking likes with their posts of pictures, thoughts, and ideas, they’re also actively liking any number of items in the marketplace that strike their fancy—from movies to their favorite soda or just about anything! These are the consumers of the future and they're not shy about making their tastes known.

We’re even starting to see teenage megastars in the virtual world. Some of the biggest online giants started out as your run-of-the-mill kids and have been able to turn their web presence into big bucks and online fame. But many of these Gen Edgers are just happy to be recognized by the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram community, and if it nets them a few freebies like being the first person to try a new Taco Bell taco, so be it!

Our Gen Edge research has confirmed that teenagers are—no surprise here—connected all the time. In fact, the number one word teenagers, parents and teachers use to describe the generation is “connected.” Unlike Millennials, they were born into a world that was already hyper-linked and have grown up constantly bombarded with new invention after new invention. Whenever they have some downtime, they’re texting, checking their friends’ Twitter feed, posting on Instagram, or taking a selfie for their next Snapchat pic. They are completely accustomed to constant online exposure to their friends and to strangers, many of them seeking out likes from people they don’t even know.

We've heard Baby Boomers and Gen Xers shake their heads at this behavior, saying, “They need to learn how to use the technology, so it’s not the technology that’s using them!” It's true that at face-value all this "like" hunting might seem superficial and worrisome, but we just have to understand that being open, honest, and constantly connected are very important to this new generation. More likes = more connections = a more established presence in the interconnected online world that is all they've ever known.

*Bonus pop culture moment: Sally Field is a true generational icon. The Boomers know her as the Flying Nun and Gidget. Xers remember her best as Burt Reynolds’ love interest in the Smokey and the Bandit series, and of course, Millennials know her as Mrs. Gump. To most Gen Edgers, she was the matriarch on the NBC show Brothers and Sisters and the pitch person for fighting osteoporosis. What a career!