They were the first to get on the technology bus, and now they’re the first to get off.
Seventy million Baby Boomers were born in the years immediately after World War II. They were well into managerial and professional careers when desktop computers and cellphones arrived in the 1980s. They had the time, the money, the education, and the interest. They became the Leading Edge Adopters of computer and cellphone technologies.
In face-to-face interviews across the U.S., Baby Boomers, now in their fifties and sixties, were asked what life lessons they had learned. The same three things came up in every situation.
- I would take better care of my physical health.
- I would save more money.
- I would care less about what other people thought.
The first is simple. When they were in their twenties and thirties, they rarely thought about the inevitabilities of aging and physical decline. Now in their 50s and 60s, these people are exercising more and eating healthier.
As they explained to us, saving more money also meant spending less. This meant not only buying fewer things, but also wasting less money on fads and things with only short-term value.
More than once we heard people talk about all those fashions that went out of style as soon as they bought them – the bell bottoms, dashikis, leisure suits, Nehru jackets, platform shoes, jelly shoes, hot pants, shoulder pads, Annie Hall, Miami Vice…
The one thing they told us that set them free was learning to be less concerned with how others see them. Here are three results of that attitudinal shift:
• Leading Edge Rejectors are abandoning fashion’s dictates and moving to clothes that are comfortable and easy to care for.
• Leading Edge Rejectors care less about the newest and latest devices. They are happily living with longer product cycles and don’t want the latest bigger-better-does more television. They don’t want to buy a new phone every year. Many are giving up smartphones for simple talk and text devices with no InterWeb connection and no large data and usage fees.
• Leading Edge Rejectors care less about social media. They don’t want to live in fishbowls and don’t like the idea of having their accounts hijacked. They don’t have any interest in the endless stream-of-consciousness commentary on things unimportant to them by people unimportant to them.
And they not only don’t care that they’re not keeping up, they’re happy to get off the treadmill and leave it to the people who need to check in every six minutes. The hell with the Joneses.
Where Are They Going?
In increasing numbers they will reject the incessant pressures to constantly spend more for things they don’t want. They will move from magpie to minimalism, from flashy to understated, from the superficial to the meaningful. It will be interesting to see what sorts of inventors, manufacturers, and marketers will develop and sell products that appeal to these Leading Edge Rejectors.
For a legendary West Coast funk band’s take on the ephemeral nature of things, watch Tower of Power’s What Is Hip? on Soundstage from 1977.