Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Web Secret #88: the iGeneration

This is what I observe when my 20 year old is home from college: As befits her generation - she is in constant communication with her peer group. She does this primarily via text message - sending thousands a month.

As befits their generation, my 16 year old twins are in constant communication with their peer group. They do this primarily via video chat. For hours. Until I tell them to stop.They are different.

Kudos to the New York Times' Brad Stone for elaborating on that observation and writing a thought provoking article "The Children of Cyberspace".

According to Stone, researchers are theorizing that:
"the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development. 'People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology...College students scratch their heads at what their high school siblings are doing... It has sped up generational differences.'
These same researchers are beginning to draw a distinction between the Net Generation, born in the 1980s (my daughter), and the iGeneration (my twins), born in the ’90s and this decade.

Now in their 20s, those in the Net Generation, spend two hours a day talking on the phone and still use e-mail frequently. The iGeneration — conceivably their younger siblings — spends considerably more time video chatting than talking on the phone, and tends to communicate more over instant-messenger networks.

This is true - I can e-mail my twenty year old, and she will respond. On the other hand, if I e-mail the twins...well let's just say that's a total waste of time. I recently had the opportunity to inspect my twin daughter's new mail folder, and it contained about one hundred unread messages.

Other iGeneration traits:
  • The newest generations, unlike their older peers, will expect an instant response from everyone they communicate with, and won’t have the patience for anything less. “They’ll want... [everyone] ... to respond to them immediately, and they will expect instantaneous access to everyone, because after all, that is the experience they have growing up...They should be just like their older brothers and sisters, but they are not.
  • They will make less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends; virtually socializing might be just as fulfilling as a Friday night party.
  • They are fantastic multitaskers. Studies performed show that 16- to 18-year-olds perform seven tasks, on average, in their free time — like texting on the phone, sending instant messages and checking Facebook while sitting in front of the television. People in their early 20s can handle only six, and those in their 30s perform about five and a half. How is that working out in school and later on, in the workplace? Will they be able to focus?
  • They have some relaxed notions about privacy. Information that Boomers and Xers kept under (literal) lock and key is freely shared on Facebook, written on Walls and chillingly, in "Honesty Boxes".
  • This is a brave new generation who will never be “off the grid.” They have grown up with this technology, as opposed to the rest of us who had to learn it, while often unlearning something else.
  • It’s not yet clear whether these disparities between adjacent groups of children and teenagers will simply fade away, as the older groups come to embrace the new technology tools, or whether they will deepen into more serious rifts between various generations.
  • The children, teenagers and young adults who are passing through this cauldron of technological change will nevertheless have a lot in common. They’ll think nothing of sharing the minutiae of their lives online, staying connected to their friends at all times, buying virtual goods, and owning devices for controlling all of these activities.
How scary is that? Or not.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an insightful post. I had never considered micro-generational gaps before, but it seems to make a lot of sense.