Let’s get this straight from the start, I am generation X, but am part Gen Y, Gen Z and even part Baby Boomer. The reason for saying this is to try and relate to any reader who fits into the social labels we are often defined by. You see I think all of us equally fit into some of the descriptions that are often given to describe the generations, but there is one aspect where I think there are some distinct differences and there shouldn’t be.
Communication and keeping in touch. This is where there is often a distinct way of finding out which generational grouping we belong.
You see I get caught between a rock and a hard place here when discussing social networking with teachers I work with and also friends and families. As Gen X (Disclaimer- these are my thoughts only – not scientifically proven anywhere except inside my mind) I understand the need for personal communication via phone or in person conversation as well as the informal conversation via tools such as Facebook, Twitter, email and sms. I also don’t bemoan the fact that I can get in touch quickly via these tools without talking to someone face to face, in fact I love the ability to communicate with my peers around the state, country, world without ever needing to speak to them. I also value the opportunity to talk to people over the phone, over a meal or over a beverage or two.
But I could be seen a ‘generational discriminatory’ here (which is not my intent) when I say that I don’t think Baby Boomers or Gen Y get the right mix. Baby Boomers generally rely on and prefer to ‘talk’ in person via phone of face to face and can be slow uptakers of technology tools as a form of social communication. Gen Y prefer the right here, right now philosophy of wanting to communicate in an instant and a phone call is not necessarily the best option so Facebook or Twitter provide a perfect solution and are often derided for what seems to be a lack of personal communication and a constant need to be ‘playing’ with their phones and the like. I think sms messaging seems to be an equal playing field for most.
So rather than getting hung up in the generational debate about the communication, I wanted to pose the question of how social we actually are. If we are only relying on personal communication like the phone, then time becomes a major issue because of the need to do it out of work hours usually at home and if they are not there then you potentially get a big game of phone chasey happening. If you rely solely on say web based forms of communication like Twitter or Facebook you are only accessing the information that is available or relying on others to regularly update it to keep in the loop.
Having a combination and balance of both is something I think all of us need to work on. I find out all about my friends and families goings on via a variety of online communication tools, but still have the deeper conversations when time permits, via the long D&M phone calls or visits. Rather than getting hung up on how we all communicate I think we should be rejoicing in the fact that we can and do more often than before which is summed up best for me in this quote from a student that I read.
“I’m not addicted to technology, I’m addicted to my friends” – I think there is something in that for all of us.