Youth Barometer 2020: Chatting and streaming is «in», drugs are «out»
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Youth Barometer 2020: Chatting and streaming is «in», drugs are «out»

Young people vary in many respects, but they are surprisingly united on what's "in" and what's "out": Platforms such as WhatsApp, YouTube, and Netflix are cool, while drug-taking and smoking are passé. Young people value a materially cautious, healthy lifestyle.

Large racks filled with records, CDs, and films are unlikely to be found any longer in the homes of young people in the 16-25 age group. They believe streaming platforms for music and movies, i.e. Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix, are better suited to their needs than traditional media – and obviously cheaper, to boot. In addition, apps used by young people to connect with their friends are absolutely vital in their lives: WhatsApp and Instagram rank among the most popular offerings and activities. The future belongs to these online services, as far as the young people surveyed suggests. In addition, activities that currently take place in the cloud have been out of favor for years. Examples include communication by handwritten letter, but also the downloading of films.

Activities now regarded as uncool nevertheless remain fairly constant as absolute trend-setters over the years. For Generation Y, for instance, the attractiveness of drugs and smoking has changed fundamentally. Whereas the cigarette hanging from the corner of a person's mouth was once seen as attractive, smoking is now a major no-no. The proportion of young people in the survey who describe the consumption of drugs as something cool and which they do themselves is equally low. These occupy the top two positions in this year's list of out-of-favor activities. In addition, drinking alcohol is in 17th place out of 59 unpopular activities.

Clearly, young people around the world think it is increasingly important to maintain a healthy and materially cautious lifestyle. This is shown by the results of the Credit Suisse Youth Barometer, which for the last ten years has taken the pulse in the form of a representative survey of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 in Switzerland, the US, Brazil, and Singapore – in the process delivering global trends as well as country-specific lessons for the future.

Top trends Switzerland: The rise of streaming and social media

"In:" Digital entertainment at the touch of a button

Streaming services are becoming more popular among young people around the world from year to year. In all four countries, apps such as Spotify, Netflix, and YouTube occupy top places on the "in" list. These services, which come free or with a monthly subscription, allow access to vast libraries of music, films, podcasts, and other content. While the downloading of entertainment content previously took a long time, these services now provide instant access.

In Singapore, for example, the proportion of young people who describe music and film apps Netflix or Spotify as "in" and also use them has risen from around 25% in 2015 to over 60% in 2020. Similar rises can be seen in other countries too. This shows how the services have developed from niche product to successful business model, as well as a driver of cultural and media change in all four countries.

Accordingly, traditional television – even in the US, where it is seen as a typical, popular pastime – has lost much of its attractiveness among young people. For today's young generation, it is entirely conceivable that streaming services will completely replace linear television in the medium term.

Chatting is "in" – Facebook is "out"

Apps that are shaping social interaction are equally crucial for this generation: For many years now, WhatsApp and Instagram have been the key platforms used by young people when communicating with friends. These services have likewise morphed from being a tool for on-trend influencers to a service that a clear majority of young people now use themselves and consider fashionable.

Niche products such as Telegram as well as Tinder and other dating apps are "out," however, and not used much by the young people surveyed; this may well be because the apps are a relatively new phenomenon, the market for them is already well covered, or they are only suitable for specific life situations. So, not all digital apps that enable dating or chatting at the touch of a button are "in" and used by young people.

It is also possible for platforms to lose some of their appeal: Facebook – the biggest and most widely used platform in Western countries – was described as "in" and also used by nearly 80% of respondents in Switzerland in 2010. After a steady decline in popularity, barely 30% of the respondents thought Facebook was cool and used it in 2020. There is a good possibility that high-flying apps like Instagram will suffer a similar fate in ten years' time, as a new generation of young people will have moved on to completely different apps.

"Out": Taking drugs and smoking are uncool

A clear majority of young people want nothing to do with smoking and drug-taking. Across all countries, 49% said that not only would they themselves not consume drugs but also that they thought it was "out." The figure for smoking is 41%. A further 20% (drug consumption) and 22% (smoking) of young people say they themselves do not take drugs or smoke, but do tend to see it as being "in" at the present time. A majority believe the consumption of alcohol is "in," on the other hand, while the proportion of young people who themselves state that they drink alcohol is roughly equal to the proportion who lead fully or largely abstinent lives. That drug-taking and smoking are so unpopular may be due to the money issue, first of all, as many of the young people are still in education or starting a career. Second, however, it seems highly possible that a healthy lifestyle will remain an important focus for today's youth in the future too.

What's "out" also very much depends on the individual country and relevant circumstances: For example, only in Switzerland are 4x4s and SUVs "out;" this fits with the finding that large numbers of young people in Switzerland are in favor of environmental protection. Another country-specific finding was that taking the night train to go on vacation was considered "out" in the US. The route network and distances covered in such a huge country are very difficult to compare with the situation in Europe, where services are being expanded further. Finally, cars are not considered "in" in Singapore, where the number of licensed vehicles is limited and such a vehicle would be correspondingly expensive.