Millennials Didn’t Kill Chatrooms — They Remade Them

 

Mind Your (House) Keys and Pews

In 2016, the Pew Research Center released a study of living arrangements for young adults in the United States. The central finding? For the first time in modern history, more young people are living with their parents than in any other living arrangement.

Data from 2014 indicates that 18-34 year olds were more likely to live in their parents’ home than with a partner or alone in another household, and the trend appears to be growing for both men and women. While young men have been “living at home with mom and/or dad [as] the dominant living arrangement since 2009”, young women are also approaching that threshold, with 35% living with a partner and 29% living with their parents. A crossover for women appears imminent.

Marriage Is Not What Brings Us Together Today

Emanuele Kabu

There are several factors at play in this phenomenon, among them education, employment, location, and race. In fact, prior to the recent turning point for the entire age demographic, this trend of at-home living surpassing other arrangements has been observed multiple times throughout the Aughts for more specific demographic groups. However, perhaps the biggest indicator of whether a millennial is living with mom or not is their marital status.

As more and more young people delay or forego marriage entirely, living at home becomes an attractive option — they know their roommates, they might not have to pay rent, and they don’t have to navigate life’s challenges solo. Additionally, those young people who live at home and didn’t graduate college can rest on the familiar social structure of their hometowns for both employment and socialization, which they might otherwise have found in higher education.

 

Living at home is an attractive option. At least you know your roommates.

 

But the familiar can also equate to the boring. The Pew report does not seek to examine the impact of such living arrangements on young people’s socialization, but we were curious: how might living at home impact the way millennials interact and connect, especially with strangers, new friends, and diverse communities outside their own?

Living For the Live Notifs

According to the Pew study, the rise of at-home living “is being driven by the experiences of more economically disadvantaged young adults, specifically, less-educated young adults and some racial and ethnic minorities.” These demographics are perhaps most susceptible to isolation, as they contend with the realities of rapid globalization and breakneck technological turnover that can leave certain populations out of the equation at every step.

Into this milieu have stumbled legion applications aimed at connection, from Vine and Instagram to Snapchat and Twitch. Young people across demographics gobble them up. They are no longer content with proclaiming their banal food statuses to the void. They want to see live connection and feel live validation.

 

They aren't content proclaiming banal food statuses to the void.

 

Apps keep getting more immediate to match.

Notifications. Push messages. Live chat synced to gameplay of the latest MMO. Live quiz shows with real-time chat streams, answers, results, and payment. That’s right; even banking is getting into the live connections game. So how did we get here?

Started From the Bottom, Now We're Here Again

Emanuele Kabu

There’s been a shift, as there is every few years in the age of the internet, to a new way of doing things online. As young people strive to feel more connected, they also strive for quantifiable, genuine relationships through the online medium. This change has, in some ways, brought internet culture full circle, from early crowded and generic chat rooms, to personalized but lonely feeds, and back to chat rooms again— but this time around, they’re offering something new: specificity on a grand scale.

Original chat rooms had a fatal flaw. They were too small. Don’t get us wrong, there were plenty of people chatting in the early days of the internet. The problem was, there were too many people to talk together about one topic and too few to address everyone’s specific interests. The reaction against the resulting genericness was harsh. Just look at the many once-great lobbies now shuttered or crumbling.

If you’ve ever been down a subreddit rabbithole, you’ll know that these issues of scale are no longer a problem. With the arrival of a global population, the internet is seeing the second rise of chat rooms and similar apps, all aimed at helping people — especially young people — find intimate and meaningful experiences within a large group that shares their interests.

To Hell With the Devil You Know

What does all this have to do with living arrangements? Well, the more young people live with their parents, the more likely they are to look outside their immediate (read: monotonous) surroundings when seeking new connections. After all, there’s a limit to how many times someone can listen to the neighbor’s son talk about his miniature monster truck collection, even if they’ve seen every episode of “Monster Jam”. Luckily, the internet provides a wide avenue for meeting people outside the social and cultural cul-de-sac of life in their childhood home.

 

There's a lot to experience outside the cultural cul-de-sac of home.

 
Emanuele Kabu

Just as young people embrace mobile applications that let them express a distinct identity, aesthetic, or sense of humor, they also turn to group applications (mobile and otherwise) that promote community based on interests and connection in real time. Perhaps a reaction to the exhausting nature of non-stop curation, streak maintenance, and group text navigation, the tendency of younger adults to find comfort in mass shared experiences online seems understandable.

Bringing It Home At Home

Like Reddit and Twitch, Paltalk has seen an influx in recent years of millennial-aged members. We, and platforms like us, can help young adults living at home connect more effectively with their peers around the world, alleviating some of the stresses of a situation that, while completely normal, society has deemed embarrassing. Learning and connecting still counts, even if it’s from a familiar basement, and more and more young people join every day. If you’re feeling lonely, give it a try.

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