Generation Gaps, Generalizations, and Surprises

Student texting during class
Image via Wikipedia

This week I had the privilege to finish off a volunteering stint at a local high school. I helped present a course about what really happens to young people when they move out from the ‘nest egg’. The course is an introduction to learning how to budget, finding out the difference between wants and needs, how to live within your means with the net income you get from your paychecks. One of my favourite parts of the course is a discussion about what the students want to do for a living.

Being in Grade 10, most of them have no particular idea what they want to be when they grow up. Getting them to realize that a job may not just be a job, and that they may want to utilize their skill sets and passions to focus on doing something they will love! During the course there is a lot of open discussion, and participation is encouraged. We did a segment about skills, worded in a way they would understand. The topic of computers and technology came up.

None of the students recognized that they have been immersed in computers and technology their entire lives! This is a HUGE skill. I went back about 20 years when I graduated from high school, and how there was a computer science class. There was pretty much no one interested in it. Computers were boring, and did nothing that teens would find interesting.

How about 40 years ago? My parents grew up before the computer age. The baby boomers came to the technology scene quite late. We can see this with trends like texting, computer games, Facebook, ipods and smart phones. None of them are really used by the baby boomers.

My wedding invitations went out recently and had a website for our guests to RSVP. Only a couple of people couldn’t figure it out. Yes, they were baby boomers. Young people had no problem making their way to the site.

Can we generalize that the teens of today are far more skilled with computers, smart phones, texting, etc…? Most would argue that this is the case. I thought so, but tonight a came across an anomoly…


Linda, is in her mid 60s and is a member of a singing chorus group. She used to be my old neighbour in Victoria. We lost touch for years. I stumbled across her email address a few months back and we have been keeping in touch. We also noticed each other on Twitter. Twitter? Yes, Linda is on Twitter.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

No big surprises here, but if she is really like the rest of the baby boomers, she shouldn’t even have heard of Twitter, or maybe heard of it but had no idea what the hell it did. Not only is Linda a regular tweeter, but she uses Twitter to promote her singing chorus. Wicked! But, still not TOO surprising.

Tonight though, while I was eating dinner my iPhone beeped. I thought I was getting a text message. But no, it was a direct message from my Twitter account. Linda was direct messaging me. What? Then I clued in. She was using Twitter to text message and keep in touch through Direct Messaging. Brilliant! Why had I never thought of this?

The grade 10 students knew all about sites like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, but didn’t know what a baby boomer was. They seemed like they had SO MUCH to learn. The majority of baby boomers that I know, aren’t up to date on computers and social media. Can we call this a generation gap?

Once in a while someone like Linda pops up though, and makes me realize it can be wrong to generalize about the differences between the young and old(er).

We can learn so much more by looking at what we have in common.

The ability to learn new things from each other…