The Intergenerational Conflict

June 29th, 2009 |


I started out working with troubled children and families running residential facilities and crisis management teams. I have been a professional writer and spent ten years creating and managing social media. If that makes no sense to you, think how I feel. Want to know more?

I cannot imagine starting a blog post today without mentioning the death of pop star Michael Jackson—okay, consider it done.

Actually, I had an interesting experience last night. I covered an event in Washington DC yesterday for one of my clients. It was a health care rally. I had to get up at 3 in the morning to get there and ended up getting home at around 10 at night. I took pictures, did some interviews and ended up spending way more time in transit than I did on site.

On the way home, I ended up in a restaurant with a blind piano player doing 70’s hits. Honestly, I found the music more than a little bit annoying. I was trying to think about meeting my deadline and putting out something intelligent on this blog today—I am like that.

As it happened, they had a long bar with representatives from three groups—baby boomers, people about the same age as Jackson and young kids—though, presumably, over 21.

The Divide

I noticed something interesting. The divide between these groups was a lot deeper than I would have expected. Let me explain.

The boomers considered Michael Jackson a young punk, not to be taken seriously—they did not seem to realize that he was only a decade behind them. They had already dealt with various Beatles dying off and just did not see the big deal.

Some of the people of Jackson’s generation were crying. They were getting up to load the jukebox up with his hits when the piano player took a break.

The kids were amused by the whole thing and made fun of Jackson and his followers, resulting in a couple of confrontations where I felt that I might have to use my crisis management skills and prevent real violence.

Diversity Among Generations

I realize that this has nothing to do with the digital divide between these groups, but maybe, in a way, it does. In any case, it made me realize what diversity there is among the generations.

I guess that the point is that there are not just two demographics out there—old and young. I suspect that the attitudes of various generations toward the online world are very, very different. I know that my generation is still caught in a perception of serious risk and the use of the most antique forms of social media, without moving on. (By the way, in my view, email if a form of social media.)

I am not going to make any comments about you people in your 50’s through 20’s at this point. I would really, really like to hear from you about the way your generation lives online.

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