Multi-Generation

I recently interviewed an older member of the Baby Boomer generation to get an idea of their outlook on social networking and its place in business and culture today. First off we both share very different outlooks on today’s world, but under fundamental lenses we share the same opinions. On the other hand, this boomer is very reluctant to embrace social networking, whereas I am a fan of modern innovative communication practices. Generation Y’ers, like myself, have grown with technology throughout our lives; where we evolve right along with new mediums of connection in order to keep up with those around us. Boomers have lived through an evolving world as well, but technology did not burst onto the scene until the near end of their careers. In communicating, my generation tends to prefer messaging and getting straight to the point to not waste time. Now although no generation enjoys wasting time, it was clear after the interview that boomers prefer speaking over messaging and this seems to be associated with their traditionalist mindset of “that’s how we always did things”. This seems to be the overall theme of why boomers have not embraced social media as quickly or at all compared to younger generations, who generally use more than one social networking platform.

Boomers seem to be very reluctant to even get online because they went most of their lives without using this new technology; as businesses embraced email communication it became necessary for these boomers to get online to utilize email between fellow employees and employers. I feel that as these boomers remain in their careers, they must also start using social networking, because the workplace is generally a multi-generational zone and boomers might not want to feel left out. It would be reasonable to assume that boomers who have not taken to social networking most likely retired before the networking boom of the new millennium. My interview with this retired boomer revealed a consistent theme over social networking views of older generations.

TABLE: Personal and Lifestyle Characteristics by Generation (If you cannot read this image e-mail maxon@fdu.edu to receive a print edition of FDU Magazine)

1.How do you feel about social networking? 2. Is it useful? 3. How has it affected your life?

  1. “I don’t really understand the need for social networks when we have email for communicating online.”
  2. “Sharing photos seems to work well, but I don’t get too much out of it.”
  3. “I see more pictures of my grandchildren, but I rarely use it while online so it hasn’t really affected me.”

As you can see from these couple of questions, this boomer is very reluctant to try new methods of communication over the traditional outlets of the past. The interview revealed that their general internet uses were for paying bills, checking email and logistical reasons (directions, airline tickets, etc…). After watching the interviewee use the internet and Facebook, my assumption is that they simply have not used the internet enough. They seem to be very uncomfortable with clicking; worried that what they click might lead to a virus or some link that they do not want. It seems that as comfortable as my generation is with new technology and internet, older generations are timid with new innovations that involve actions in a virtual world that they cannot touch or open with their hands. The more these boomers use the internet, the more they will become comfortable with the virtual world ahead of us all.

Generally, the best way to reach older boomers is to send an email that gets straight to the point, while the best way to reach generation Y (my generation), from my experience, is to use a social networking platform, such as Facebook. When you use these platforms you’re alerted via email as well; effectively killing two birds with one stone.

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  1. Jeff,

    This is an excellent narrative of generational rift that is, more or less, a harmless result of chance (when one was born) and preference (how we choose to communicate). What I think is most interesting is that, in spite of what the social media moguls proselytize, vast sections of the population can function perfectly well with a marked indifference to the digital revolution. Rather than feeling obligated to conform to the social media habits of the young, older generations may more readily utilize the Internet to meet their present needs, rather than to satisfy new needs (digital reputation/vanity).

    Fascinating stuff, though.

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