I talked recently to an experienced businessperson who is straddling such a technological fault line in her office. She has been driven by the hyper-communicative habits of a junior employee—who constantly pings her with updates and questions and messages—to decrease her accessibility by doing things like entirely shutting down instant messaging. This, lest she get drawn into a constant digital patter that, to her, is non-productive and unnecessary—but that likely feels to her employee like a positive and valuable stream of interaction.
Differences like these are real and widespread. I read an interview recently with Internet guru Marc Andreessen who described how differently young employees today in their late teens and early 20s synthesize information, use technology and perceive business opportunities, vs. colleagues literally just a few years older.
But linking technology uptake entirely to age is to paint too broad a brush. Openness to the potential created by technology is really a state of mind. Take my Digital-savvy Mom for instance. Someone for whom staying connected has always been important, she has embraced technology, well, like an early
adopting teenager. She got started on a cell phone long before the majority of Americans did, and wields it constantly to keep herself connected to a tight web of family and friends. Things hit a new level recently when she switched to an iPhone (How is it possible that my Mom got an iPhone before I did?! I’d prefer not to talk about this.) and started sending emails, watching videos, emailing pictures, listening to the radio on her phone….etc. It really is a brave new world.
Originally published 1/8/10