If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you might be aware that other people’s technology habits occasionally can make me…cranky (see here and here for examples). I’ve gotten especially out of sorts regarding millennials’ social media use and their occasional non-use of electronic communications. Fair enough: I’m an affable curmudgeon. However, I’m usually willing to admit when I’m wrong. This is one of those times. Read on.
Stereotypes and Generational Perspectives
I admit that I’ve been guilty of stereotyping Generation Y/Millennials for their tech use as much as anyone, and I should know better. I recall fondly Gen Xers being called “slackers” in the media 30 years ago. This past week, I reviewed a millennial friend’s book on the space business. I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers by saying that it includes a large number of perspectives from people in that age demographic holding forth on aspects of the space business, including the use of technology to communicate.
It was eye-opening for me because I realized that I’ve allowed myself to accept the stereotypes based on what I’ve heard and in some cases seen.
News flash for my fellow Gen Xers, the Baby Boomers, and any Silent Generation folks interacting with millennials in the workplace: not all of them are on social media all the time. Also: not all of them are talking about work on social media. In the aerospace business, for example, there are laws, regulations, and agreements that can get you fired or thrown into jail if you do.
This is not to say I haven’t seen younger people grouse about their bosses, coworkers, or customers online. I have, and I still gently suggest that you stop it before it backfires on you.
Returning to the generational stereotypes: it’s important to realize that individual personalities vary within every generation. There are introverts in the Millennial age bracket who, like others, prefer not to share every detail of their personal lives on Facebook, Tinder, or SnapChat. Gen Y has the same range of reactions that pre-social media generations (GenX and up) have about social media, from joyful celebrations of ubiquitous communication to serious misgivings about how much people share online. You just don’t see or hear from those folks much because–surprise!–they’re not online. To those of you who are NOT doing awful things on social media, I apologize.
And while social media is good for socializing, Millennials are not using them (much) for doing their actual jobs, at least in the space business. They still rely on emails, formal memos, or direct conversations when they want to accomplish actual work tasks, just like anyone else. Conferences still have their place, as do face-to-face meetings. If one message came across from Laura’s book, it’s that Gen Y thinks the grayer folks in their midst are still slow to use the technological solutions now available for solving problems. There will come a point where even my dragged-into-using-it approach to technology will not be seen as socially acceptable. Point taken. Consider me chastened.