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Are You De-Teching?


They prefer face-to-face interaction to webinars, online education and automated tellers. They think there's just something about a "real book" that technology can't replace. They're growing nostalgic for board games and "real" experiences, instead of Nintendo Wii and other virtual interactions.

Are we talking about aging Baby Boomers? No. These are the emerging, and on the surface surprising, preferences of GenY, or the millennials. But scratch the surface, and maybe these sentiments aren't so surprising after all. Consider that this is a generation that grew up with tech-it has always been a part of their lives. Perhaps not so surprising, then, that sometimes they would just like to "get away."

So says Ann Mack, author of the report "Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot." Mack is Director of Trendspotting with JWT (, a global marketing communications firm based in New York.

"People are fetishizing the physical and the tactile," says the report, noting that as people spend more time in the digital world they are increasingly valuing the time they do not spend in front of a screen-time spent with other people.

Mack says that JWT started following the trend of the younger generation embracing the physical or "analog" world back in 2010. It was a trend they called "de-teching." And, she predicts: "As our dependence on technology rises so too will our desire to dial it down-at least temporarily-so we can be present in the offline now, see people face-to-face and engage with them in reality rather than virtual reality." Millennials, she says, are even more likely to feel this need to disconnect.

A few results from the study illustrate this:

  • 76 percent of millennials agreed that "it means more to me if someone gives me a physical book than an ebook."
  • 77 percent of millennials said "physical cards/letters make me feel more connected to people than digital notes."

And despite the fact that these experiences have not been a significant part of the millennials' experience, 66 percent agreed that "I sometimes feel nostalgic for things from the past, like vinyl records and photo albums."

In fact, millennials-aged 18-35-were more likely than any other age cohort to agree with the statement "I like the smell and feel of books" (78 percent, compared to the next highest response of 71 percent from the silent generation (aged 69+).

As Chuck Underwood, a consultant who specializes in generational studies ( and the author of The Generational Imperative, points out: "Yes, the first-wave millennials came of age during the Technology Revolution, but they also came of age more adult-supervised than any prior generation. The extreme intimacy of all of that human contact crashing into the extremely cold and impersonal culture of tech is an interesting collision of two very different experiences."

Next week... read what this emerging trend means for those in the insurance industry.

Lin Grensing-Pophal has written on topics ranging from health and wellness, to careers and HR-related topics, to marketing and social media. Her most recent book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Strategic Planning" (Penguin), was released in spring 2011. Lin is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists.