Digital Displacement – Gen Y’s Existential Frontier For Control


Two kinds of Millennials exist when it comes to our digital devices; one group is like the bowerbird, and the other group is like a hermit crab. Both groups use devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but they differ in how they deal with change. There are few moments in a connected Millennial’s life more traumatic than being disconnected for reasons other than one’s own choice. It is a sad tale of all the devices dunked, dropped, lost, taken, or otherwise out-of-service. The response that determines your metaphorical creature is your ability to handle control; it’s about holding control tenaciously, or going with the flow.

Bowerbirds are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea, and share close evolutionary ties with birds-of-paradise. The male bowerbird goes to great lengths in time and effort to build a bower to attract potential mates. Each male meticulously collects and adjusts his treasures to make them most attractive. If a leave should fall onto his masterpiece, he wastes no time removing it. This behavior is an attempt at complete control over your reality. I am not here to lecture on merits, but I will say that experience in gardening, technology, and traffic have taught me to beware the idea that we can control everything. When a person like this has a device disaster, it may take longer to recoup because of a dislike for change, and desire to be in control.

Those hermit crabs of digital devices are more go-with-the-flow types. If this is your trait, you can probably move from one to device to another with ease. Hermit crabs can be found on land and in the water, carrying their homes with them. In order for a hermit crab to grow, it must shed its tough older skin and find a shell to accommodate its new size. Though vulnerable until it finds a new shell, once in its new home a crab will happily continue its crab priorities. People with accounts and information they can carry from device to device may handle change with more fluidity. Yes, there can be hiccups and growing pains, but a user with experience of change will breeze by their bowerbird contemporaries. Spending energy for what you can impact saves on draining exertions to change the things we do not control.

Millennials are a generation of change. We were not born in a time where what was the norm will be the future as well. As society,  science, and technology push us further and further, we will need to adapt to change, or face the consequences of complacency. Learning how we can change ourselves or change the world all relies on an understanding of what we can control. It can be an upsetting thought that we don’t have any power in life, but it can also be extremely freeing. To wit, we may not control anything in life, but we have at least some control over our responses to what life sends us. We all have different experiences and challenges to face, but we all possess shared power to transcend challenges and get back to important things like happiness and fulfillment.

The next time you experience a device disaster, remember that these things happen. If you are able, try to take steps to keep your information safe and transferable, but don’t be overcome by anger or sadness for your tech. I can personally say that adapting to change has been a challenge at times, but I am happier. I can enjoy using technology, I can disconnect, and I can find a new shell when I’ve outgrown my old one.


Fun fact: Hermit crabs are not hermits by nature. If you see them in the wild, they are quite social, living in large groups of 100 or more. As time goes on they find shells by foraging, and can have a big shell swap with many crabs changing homes. Just like Gen Y, it helps to work together and share resources in case you can trade what you have for something that fits even better.