How 31 Year Olds Consume Media

Matthew Robson (aged 15) wrote a memo for Morgan Stanley called ‘How Teenagers Consume Media’ and caused a stir. I’m hoping to be as helpful with my own memo along similar lines. Don’t expect it to make the front page of the FT any time soon though.

How 31 Year Olds Consume Media
By Dan Wilson (31 years and 8 months)

We listen to the radio a lot and increasingly we’ve started enjoying Wake up to Wogan. Terry’s dry wit is a great start to the day. Moving Jo Whiley to the weekends seems like a shame. Singles we bought in our teens are increasingly being billed as oldies. We miss John Peel.

We watch much more television than we confess to and constantly complain that TV isn’t as good as it used to be. Nowadays it’s all cooking, antiques and property shows. Programmes about making money from buying and selling houses have become less satisfactory since we fell into negative equity. iPlayer means we can catch up with Celebrity Masterchef at our convenience. Interactive TV means things like calling Noel Edmonds on Swapshop, writing to Jim’ll Fix it and shouting at the panel on Question Time.

You can’t beat a sunday morning with a coffee and the quality papers. You can’t do that on a Nintendo! Otherwise, Metro or other freesheets that you pick up on the way to work.

We’re angry about music because the industry has fleeced us time and time again. We’ve bought music on vinyl, tape, CD and downloaded it too. And yet Paul Mcartney still hasn’t stopped complaining about how we’re ripping him off. We have no idea what DRM is but we suspect it’s a pretty good university second only to Oxford and Cambridge.

We remember when having a telephone meant that mum used her special phone voice and said our own telephone number when she picked up the receiver. Calling after 6pm was cheaper and calling abroad was prohibitively expensive. We used to phone up other people’s houses and just hope they were in. Yes, really.

We’ve had decent mobiles for a decade and more. Our first fone was seriously cool and seriously expensive. Every handset since has been smaller, cheaper and more reliable. This has taught us a lot about life. We’re still teaching our parents how to text. Blackberrys are great because you can check your work email on the way home. Apple iPhones are great because you can check your work email on the way home and feel superior to someone who’s still using a Blackberry.

31 years olds are adept at using the internet. Many people look at pornography.

Friends Reunited introduced us to social media and reconnected us with everyone we ever lost touch with from school. We spent a decade regretting our early enthusiasm but remain satisfied with the knowledge that the school cool kid who once taunted us now works in Tescos and has three kids by three different partners (the oldest child is 12!). We deserted Friends Reunited when our mum and teachers joined but there’s still someone we had a crush on in year 9 (just after it stopped being the fifth form) that we keep an eye out for. Just in case.

MySpace is a mystery. It looks like a teenage bedroom wall covered in posters and magazine cuttings. We hate it because the Guardian says it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch. We know it’s very important for new bands (such as The Arctic Monkeys) hoping to make the charts but since they cancelled Top of the Pops we don’t see much point in the charts. We understand that MySpace is all to do with downloads. Downloads are just like singles. But free. Downloads killed Woolworths. Pick and Mix was better than MySpace.

Facebook is for baby photos, wedding photos and party photos. People who put up baby photos get most of their adult interaction via Facebook. Women who put up wedding photos look forward to the day when they can put up baby photos of their own. Married men are jealous of their single mates going to the pub a great deal more than they do. People who post party photos keep a close eye on the relationship status and are keenly aware that their profile picture makes them look better than in real life. Everyone plays a lot of Scrabble.

Twitter is great. It takes us moments to lie about what we’ve been doing. We seem more interesting, erudite and connected on Twitter than we really are in real life. A train delay is a great tweet and everyone wants to know about a trip to a farmers’ market. Here’s hoping no one asks us out for a mountain bike ride after last weekend’s tweets. We made it up.

Email gets checked every hour and our inboxes overflow with unread messages. But we still remember the romance of snail mail. We sent love letters in the post and got presents from granny. E-cards are a cop out. But we make snail mail better by using the internet to buy preprinted address labels, and we make our own Christmas cards from pictures we take on our DLRs.

Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble at Christmas. Will consider getting a Wii when Chucky Egg and Pong are available.

Mathew Robson
We have no idea why a lad who should be wanking, drinking Merrydown cider in a graveyard and listening to Radiohead is writing plausible memos for an evil merchant bank. At his age we hated Thatcher and thought that a Labour government would make everything better. We did our work experience at the local B&Q. We still listen to the Levellers when we’ve drunk too much carbon-neutral wine from artisan vineyards in Dorset.

48 thoughts on “How 31 Year Olds Consume Media”

  1. “We remember when having a telephone meant that mum used her special phone voice and said our own telephone number when she picked up the receiver.”

    My parents still do this. Although they’ve managed texting, the internet is more or less a special thing they use under unusual circumstances, in much the same way as the Chinese formally drink tea.

    I love this post, although at 29yrs 9mos, we differ somewhat on the TV/games balance…but I should definitely get back to using my Facebook status to tell outrageously tall tales. That was fun.

  2. Stuart,

    You’re right re gaming. Plenty of people do have a Wii. for bowling, that fitness thing and rockstar. But it’s a terrible affectation. ;o)

  3. I’m shocked that you lie on Twitter.
    I shall never believe you again when you say you are on the train… 🙁

  4. I am very proud to say that at my young age :p my 23 year old son still asks me questions about the web/social networking etc. It does make plenty of conversation at the business club too, not so many web addicts there.

    Great post Dan, excellent read 😀

  5. Brilliant. And thanks for the part about “year 9” – in our day we didn’t have any of this year 9 business, I just knew I had to escape to the real world before I was conscripted into “6th form” *shudder*

  6. You didn’t spend your teenage years hating Thatcher – you were twelve when she quit! Even I barely qualify as a Thatcher hater and I was 15 at the time.

  7. I don’t know, I’m thirteen years older, and some of this reads to me like the comments of someone ten or more years older than me.

    Apart from the Thatcher/Levellers/Year 9 stuff, of course.

    I guess if that proves anything, it’s that you get different experiences of life both on- and offline in every generation.

    Oh, and you really need to work on your apostrophe use (hint: they’re not for plurals).

  8. Pure class. It may be worth mentioning that our generation had rave, Madchester, trip hop and Britpop and therefore believe that we have a privileged place in the music hierarchy, and are horrified when songs we like appear in the Radio 2 playlist. I can’t wait for a creduous investment bank to fall fawning on your every word.

  9. Possibly the best blog about early 30s life I’ve ever read. Do they still sell Merrydown cider…? I was more of a Mad Dog 20/20 yoof, myself.

    Top marks. Excellent blog.

  10. James Graham: The hate didn’t die when she left office.

    Martin Maccallion: A terrible apostrophe crime has been corrected.

    Tom Morton: I’m a tad too young for rave and never really loved trip hop. But yes Madchester and Britpop. Memories.

    Chris Lee: You know. I have no idea re Merrydown.

  11. I just thought I’d add my voice, being 31 and a few months. I don’t listen to the radio, watch TV or read the newspapers at all. I get world and local news from the Internet. As for gaming, without going as far as Pong, I must admit: it’s retrogaming all the way, baby !

    Facebook is crap, Twitter too but at least it works (‘cept when it doesn’t), knowing this I still use both. MySpace is not even worth being described with bad words, better be dismissed without further ado. First time I hear about Friends Reunited. All I can say is that their bingo icon looks like eye balls.

    I don’t have a phone either, all those portable devices are useless, it’s like carrying around your grief.

    However I must say I like teenagers (not in a pedophiliac kind of way). Some are nice and open-minded, refreshing to talk to, you can discuss interesting things most people of your age have become too narrow-minded to appreciate or even notice, such as Japanese rock music or anime. Of course, some teens are stupid and disgusting, more than you were at their age and this probably is a consequence of the overly permissive Internet. I can’t really understand though why we should put adults in one side and teenagers on the other, or rather adults at the top and teenagers at the bottom, like if we were two different species who have nothing in common. The paradox is that scorn for teenagers often stems from the perception of adulhood people had when they were teenagers.

  12. Brilliant! Turning 31 soon and wish I saw more blog posts like this! So will now follow your blog (discovered it via twitter).

    Chucky egg was a classic, most games these days are absolute….

  13. Hilarious and so true -The best part is the last bit about what was 15 year old Matthew Robson doing interning at Morgan Stanley – at his age i was getting stoned in the park vandalising property and not wanting to step foot in a large financial corporate institute!!! Ahh, good times!

  14. Fantastic read. Thank you

    (Everytime I dl a torrent file, I am screaming out loud exactly what you ‘ve written about Music)

  15. And 49 yr olds?

    Use Facebook to find out what their teenagers did on their first holiday away unaccompanied.

    Wish phones would stop shrinking and use ever so slightly bigger text (Nokia best of bad bunch)

    Have spent so much of the last 30 years plugged into a PC we’d rather do anything than use them for entertainment (except iplayer of copurse because it’s the only way we get to watch what we want instead of BB/Dragons Den/Project Runway and other pap)

    Smile happily when said teenagers get bored with gadgets and wind up playing Monopoly/Poker with their mates 🙂

  16. At nearly 29 i can say this is great! – except the slandering of merrydown cider – this is actually quite nice, nowadays at least, 15 years olds should stick to strongbow/ white lightening or whatever its called now!

    anyway hilarious esp the myspace bit!

  17. Utter genius.

    Just one point, unless you were playing an American version, I’m sure the game was spelt “Chuckie Egg”. Oh, how I remember the many wasted hours trying to get to that caged bird.

    Excellent post, with bags more credibility than the little tosser from Morgan Stanley.

  18. Fabulous post. This is also exactly how 42-year-olds (in my case) consume media. The mother telephone voice thing made me laugh a lot. Only the other day my sister and I were waxing nostalgic about the days when Mum would pick up the instrument and say Great Shefford 264. I am also old enough to remember when telephone boxes took 2p pieces and had pips. I miss the pips.

  19. “We used to phone up other people’s houses and just hope they were in. Yes, really.”

    Ha, love it! In my house we did it on a yellow rotary-dial phone where the 8 was broken and unspun at half speed. How far we have come…

    *deliberately avoiding the elephant emblazoned ‘to what end this progress?’*

    Really enjoyed this post, Dan — nicely written and a little too accurate in some cases.

  20. Just genius. Paragraph on Facebook is spot on, especially “People who put up baby photos get most of their adult interaction via Facebook.”

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  22. Yes, you got the tone just like Matthews original. At 47 there are a few cultural refs here I can smilingly pass over (never got much joy outta the levelers, or rough cider) BUT, you raise a good laff. I also liked your post about the wonderful Allingham (I was so chuffed to hear that he ascribed his longevity to “cigaretts, whisky and wild, wild women!”)


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  25. Brilliant! And hilarious.

    I’m so glad and reassured now I have the perspective from a UK 31 year old, it’s all much clearer now.

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