Technology and Social Behaviors between Generations: Final Paper

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Angela Valecce

Professor Dwyer

CM213: Writing and Communications

2 May 2013

Technology and Social Behaviors between Generations

            Have you ever sat in a room with a bunch of friends, thinking you were going to do something fun but everyone was on their smart phones or Ipads ignoring each other? My sister had a friend over one night and they were just sitting in her room, both on their Ipads not talking to one another. I asked her why they weren’t outside playing or downstairs playing the Wii, her response was, “I never thought of that.” This is happening more and more as kids become too attached to the new technology that is being produced. It’s not their fault this is what they are growing up with: it’s a part of their culture just as the radio was to the Silent Generation of 1928-1945 (“American Generations”). Each generation has its own social behaviors when it comes to using technology.

The baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, were the first TV and divorce generation. Growing up, they didn’t have much money so they had to create their own fun, unlike the generations after them who grew up with technology to entertain them (“Traditionalists”). Most boomers from this generation own a computer and cell phone but don’t know exactly how to use them. Only a few have embraced social networking, many sticking to Facebook and not much more. They are slowly accepting technology and its uses because they are realizing that technology is here to stay and it is only going to grow in the future, which might not be the best thing to happen.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979, were raised by the career driven Boomers. Many of these children were latch-key kids, meaning they came home from school to an empty house because their parents were at work. They tend to be a very self-reliant, cautious, skeptical, and self-absorbed bunch (“Traditionalists”). They can adapt to technology easier than their parents can, but they are no match to the generations that follow them.

Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1995, grew up with the use of technology. This generation tends to be comfortable with various groups and can adapt more easily to new technology than the generations before them. They also begin to favor communicating through e-mail and text messages rather than face-to-face interaction (“Traditionalists”). Generation Y may be better with technology than previous generations, but they are not as tech savvy as Generation Z. I recently just got an Iphone. It was the first apple product I owned, other than the Ipod nano, so I was looking at all the cool features it held. I was getting very frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to change a certain feature. I was so sure it was a simple task and that I was just missing something. My eight year old cousin asks me what I’m trying to do so I explain to her my situation, not expecting her to know anything about it. She grabs the phone out of my hands, presses a few buttons, and asks what sound I would like instead of the one before. I just stared at her in shock. I couldn’t believe an eight year old could figure something out so fast when I was trying for almost an hour.  The most technology I ever came in contact with when I was her age was my portable CD player or the occasional video or computer game. I was usually outside playing at eight years old, not in the house sitting in front of a computer or Ipad screen. The use of Facebook, Twitter and other instant communicational technology makes this generation very peer-oriented, seek instant gratification, and they look for immediate feedback from others.

 Generation Z, born 1996 to the present, has never known a life without computers, phones, or the internet. They are often called Digital Natives because they basically eat and breathe technology (“Traditionalists”). Most people in this generation are used to instant satisfaction with everything because it is that much easier with technology to get things directly; an example would be renting a movie instantly from your computer rather than getting in the car and driving to Blockbuster, like I had to do, to see if the movie you wanted was even there to rent. They are very tech savvy; I am always asking my sister how to do things on the computer or on some website and I’m only four years older than her. I should know how to do all this stuff but it seems to come more naturally to her than to me. They are very good at multi-tasking and can easily move from one thing to another. They expect media to be available to them where and whenever they require it.

The Baby Boomer generation is having a tough time keeping up with the new technology that is rapidly being produced. If someone from this generation doesn’t know how to work a cell phone, it could be a very serious problem. Instead of calling their doctor, they could be taking pictures not knowing why the call isn’t going through (Barrientes). Is it because the technology is too advanced for them or are they too stubborn to learn how to use it properly? Most of the time the answer is that this generation is stuck in their ways and they are unwilling to embrace technology or learn how to use it. There are some people from this generation who want to learn everything about the new technology but it takes them some time to figure out how to work it. Generation Y and Z may become frustrated if they try to teach them how to use these new devices so they might not bother at all (Zook). But generation Y and Z would need help learning how to use devices from the Baby Boomer generation, like how to use a typewriter. I wouldn’t have a clue how to use it; I still don’t know everything about computers. Since generations grew up with different gadgets and devices, it makes it harder for people to learn things that they didn’t grow up with.

Technology didn’t consume the Baby Boomer generation though; as it does generations Y and Z. This is why generations today know so much about technology and older generations are clueless. Baby Boomers were out playing tag, hide and seek, or roller skating. Kids and teenagers nowadays still hang out with one another but the interaction is completely different. They will sit in a room together but not talk to one another because they are all on their smart phones or Ipads tweeting away or posting Facebook statuses. The real rebels like to change it up and go outside to tweet or update Facebook. “The realities of modern life happen to include a relationship between people and technology so intimate that it’s no longer possible to tell where we end and machines begin. The cyborg age is here and now, everywhere there’s a car or a phone or a VCR” (Kunzru). It’s hard to see where the line is between people and technology because people are constantly using it. It’s all over the place and hard to avoid. Teenagers are so glued to their phones that when it is not in their possession they tend to freak out. Why the big change between these generations and why has technology taken over the lives of people today, especially kids and teenagers? People may use technology for work, school, and for personal matters but there is such a thing as overdoing it. When you are connected to a device 24/7 it becomes irritating to people when you are present in their company, such as accepting a call from work when you are out to dinner with your family (Cafferty). Back in the day, they kept work and family separate but now they are both intertwined and the line separating these two is dwindling as years go by. Susan Greenfield, a professor of synaptic pharmacology at Oxford who has written and spoken widely on the impact of new technology on users’ brains, mentioned how it’s different for a senior citizen or even a baby boomer to go on Facebook and learn how to use it but another when kids are spending hours and hours looking at a screen. “It’s one thing for someone like my mum, who’s 85 and a widow, to go onto Facebook for the first time — not that she’s done this, but I’d love for her to do it — to actually widen her circle and stimulate her brain, there are stats coming out, for example, that over 50 percent of kids, between 13 and 17, spend 30-plus hours a week recreationally in front of a screen” (“Are We Becoming”).

Although kids in this generation may be tech savvy, their communication skills and socializing face to face may be lacking due to the constant communication through the computer or smart phones. Do they even know how to hold a conversation without the use of technology? I know my sister, who was born in this generation, is on her Ipad constantly. It is hard to hold a decent conversation without her getting distracted by her Ipad all the time. My mom gets very irritated with her and her when she is using it. She hates the school for giving it to them and threatens to take it away from my sister all the time. I hope my mom does one of these days, just to see what my sister would do without it. I don’t think she would survive.

Knowing how the current generation is responding to new technology, it makes me question at what cost has technology replaced personal interactions? The Baby Boomer generation used to call each other up on the phone or write letters with actually words, not shortened versions like kids do today. They held conversations daily and were interacting with others non-stop. Generation Y and Z are also interacting non-stop but in a completely different way. They do it on their computers or phones, not actually having that personal connection one gets when talking to another human being face to face (Lui). This has become a problem in today’s society because kids are losing a vital skill. Sure technology makes things easier, like writing a research paper, but it doesn’t help with communication skills. It’s easier to stay connected with friends but it takes away that deep personal connection when you are in the same room as another person having a conversation. Evgeny Morozov, the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and a contributing editor to The New Republic, says that there are certain things that should not be mediated through technology. He goes on to say “our friendships and our sense of connectedness to other people — perhaps they can be mediated, but they have to be mediated in a very thoughtful and careful manner, because human relations are at stake” (“Are We Becoming”). So he acknowledges that there is a problem the way we interact with others today but he does say that if properly handled, this problem could be overcome. I don’t think the generations that are so heavily involved with technology are willing to limit their technology intake.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. Generation Y and Z are losing something, but they also gaining something as well. They are gaining the necessary tools one will need when entering the work force. Employers are looking for advanced, tech savvy people who can get things done fast and efficiently. They are taking the Baby Boomers and generation X’s jobs right out from under them (Barrientes). Finding work in today’s society is hard enough, but when you are competing with eager and tech sufficient college kids it makes finding a job and keeping it that much harder.

The social behaviors and work ethic is changing through the generations. Because the Baby Boomers’ parents were from the Depression Era, they didn’t have much growing up so they worked really hard to give their children what they never had. Their kids, generation X, took a different approach to the workforce than their parents did which was work all the time. This generation wanted a balance between their job and family, whereas the next generation is willing to work more hours. Generation X likes flexible work hours and would rather be spending time with family than working. The social behaviors and work ethic that each generation grew up with varies because of the technology that each had and because of the environment around them. People in the work force today have devices that can connect them to many people at once and any given time. The Baby Boomers didn’t have this when they were in the work force so once they went home for the night; it was pretty much family time. In today’s society, family time can be interrupted with work, leaving little time for one to spend time with family and friends. Even though these devices we have let us feel as though we are constantly connected to family or friends, it is not the same as being in the same room as them (Weiss Haserot). I think that technology has really helped the work force by getting things done in a more faster and efficient way but it has taken away our willingness to look beyond our computer screen and actually see a person for who they are, not just their Twitter name or profile picture on Facebook.

Technology isn’t limited to the work force; it is commonly used in education. Technology is so immersed in today’s education that it’s hard not to use it one way or another. When teachers depend on technology to teach a class, it becomes a hassle and an inconvenience when it doesn’t work properly. Teachers who rely solely on technology, waste class time because they don’t know how to use it or they have nothing else prepared. Kids are also allowed to bring laptops or Ipads to school so they can copy notes easier and faster in class, different from pens and copybooks that so many people grew up with previously. Children growing up before computers and Ipads used to fall asleep when they got bored in class. Now they are taking pictures of themselves, snapchating with people in other classrooms, or on social networking sites if they aren’t blocked by the school. Instead of passing notes, they can Instagram or Skype with people during class. When kids used to fall asleep, it was obvious to the teacher that the student wasn’t paying attention but now that it looks like they are taking notes, it is easier to get away with. Kids are being too distracted by today’s technology to pay attention during class resulting in lower grades and a generation of uneducated but tech savvy people.

Susan Greenfield’s worry is that people are too attached to technology and aren’t willing to comprise the amount of time they spend using it. She goes on to say, “So what concerns me is not the technology in itself, but the degree to which it has become a lifestyle in and of itself rather than a means to improving your life” (“Are We Becoming”). She questions whether or not spending that much time using technology enhances one’s life or even knowledge. Thinking about how much time I spend with technology has really put into perspective what my life basically consists of, which isn’t much more than socializing weather it’s on the computer or on my phone. It’s sad to realize that I am one of those technology junkies that needs to be connected to the internet all the time.

The big question that comes to mind is does technology really improve the way society communicates with one another? Looking back over the last like 70 years, one can see where this change has occurred and the way it is affecting society today. Technology is supposed to help us not hurt us, but that is what it is doing. It is taking away our ability to think freely and use our minds. Why would you waste time thinking when you can get the answer in seconds by pressing a few buttons. It is also taking away the conversations between people. We don’t get the same feelings when we are talking through words on a screen or by the use of emoticons (Howland). We need to see each other’s facial expressions, hear each other’s voices, and feel their presence in the room. It makes things more personal and meaningful when face to face.  I know it’s impossible to completely cut off technology, but every now and then it would be a good idea to actually talk person to person and not through some sort of electronic device. Just taking a step back from technology and seeing the world through your own eyes instead of through a computer screen would be really beneficial to not just you, but to everyone around you that you come in contact with. You can see different perspectives if you just take the time to reevaluate how you use technology. Life shouldn’t be wasted by sitting behind a computer screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“American Generations through the Years.” CNN. Cable News Network, 05 May 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2011/05/living/infographic.boomer/index.html&gt;.

“Are We Becoming Cyborgs?” The New York Times. Ed. Serge Schmemann. The New York Times, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/opinion/global/maria-popova-evgeny-morozov-susan-greenfield-are-we-becoming-cyborgs.html?pagewanted=all&gt;.

Barrientes, Jackie. “Journalism and Mexican Politics.” Journalism and Mexican Politics. N.p., 2    Nov. 2007. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://barrientes.wordpress.com/2007/11/02/how-is-global-  technology-affecting-the-generation-gap/>.

Cafferty, Jack. “Technology Replacing Personal Interactions at What Cost?” Cafferty File RSS.    N.p., 3 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/03/technology-replacing-personal-interactions-at-what-cost/&gt;.

Howland, K.L. “How Digital Technology Is Affecting the Current Teen Generation.” Helium. Helium, 11 Dec. 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.helium.com/items/2037094-how-technology-is-changing-teens&gt;.

Kunzru, Hari. “You Are Cyborg.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/ffharaway_pr.html&gt;.

Liu, Nathan. “Social Media: Does It Make Us Less Social?” Urban Times RSS. N.p., 17 Dec. 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://urbantimes.co/2011/12/social-media-does-it-make-us-less-social/&gt;.

“Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (and Generation Z) Working Together.” United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Weiss Haserot, Phyllis. “Social Media Influences on Generational Behavior and Vice Versa.” Social Media Influences on Generational Behavior and Vice Versa. N.p., 7 May 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.accountingweb.com/topic/human-resources/social-media-influences-generational-behavior-vice-versa&gt;.

Zook, Genevieve. “Technology and the Generation Gap.” Technology and the Generation Gap. N.p., 27 Aug. 2007. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.llrx.com/features/generationgap.htm&gt;.

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