Technology and Generation Gap – Article by Arooj Fatima
Technology and Generation Gap – Article by Arooj Fatima
“O my God. mom! I called your mobile phone. Why did you reject my call?”
“Sorry dear, I was trying to receive your call. I forgot the right button.”
“Mom! I have taught you zillions of times how to operate your mobile. I’ve realized it’s of no use. You can’t learn how to use a mobile phone!”
All of us go through similar dialogues in our homes with our parents and elders every day. The important thing to analyze is why our parents shy away from the technological gadgets that surround us all the time. We are living in a time of incredible technological changes. These changes are so rapid that we can barely tread water let alone get ahead of technology. New technologies seem to appear from nowhere and take over our lives. A few years ago, hardly anybody was seen talking on cellular phones. Today, almost everybody has a ‘cell’. Such a revolutionary change has taken less than a decade. Technologies that took dozens of years to develop into mainstream gadgets now emerge in three to five years.
The radio took thirty eight years to reach an audience of fifty million. Television took thirteen years. The personal computer took sixteen years. The Internet took a mere five years! The Agricultural Era lasted three thousand years. The Industrial Wave lasted three hundred years. The Computer Era rose and fell in thirty years. In the past thirty years we have seen several more waves with each one breaking faster than the one before.
There is no denying the fact that technology is developing at a rapid speed but it’s interesting to note the difference in the attitude towards this development that we witness in different age groups. To understand this we have to take the aid of some of the facts again. We are in the midst of four generations. Those born before 1946 make up the ‘silent generation’ and were raised without what we would call ‘modem technology’. Baby Boomers were born between 1945 and
1964 and they formed the first technological generation with computers on the horizon. They were followed by Generation X (1965 to 1980) the first one to be computer literates and the Net Generation (bom after 1980) who cut their teeth on computers, videogames and the Internet. Each generation has approached technology and life quite differently.
To understand these differences it is important to note how each generation approaches life and change. In general, Baby Boomers have a single job throughout their working career, are fiercely loyal to their job, work to live and avoid making waves. In contrast. Generation X will hold multiple jobs and because of their mobility they tend to challenge authority rather than simply follow company directives. Work is not the most important part of their lives and they value their personal time. They differ in the way they use technology, the questions they ask and the choices they make. Boomers learned technology after their schooling and prefer face-to-face, process-oriented meetings.
Generation X is results oriented and since they grew up with technology, they prefer electronic communication. Boomers like routines, Xers like spontaneity. They even navigate the web in very different ways. Time holds a very different meaning for each. Xers have little tolerance for time-intensive activities and feel strongly that meetings arc a waste of time. They want their boss to give them a job and stand back and let them do their work. The Silent Generation is even more enmeshed in their profession if they have not yet retired. Technology is foreign to them and they have had to learn a whole new language and skill late in their careers. The Net Generation has been entangled with technology since their birth.
The average age that they start using a computer is three, and most send their first e-mail before they enter kindergarten. They live on instant messaging and communicate with friends more through Instant Messaging than any other way. They multitask constantly, with the average teen talking to three people at once on IM and perform several other tasks at the same time. They get bored easily and change jobs and careers often. The generations also differ in learning styles. Boomers are auditory and visual learners while the Generation X and the Net Generation are tactile learners. Obviously these are gross generalities. Nevertheless, they provide good guidelines for the impact of technology on lifestyles and the widening gulf between generations.
Because of their affiliation with technological gadgets who obey their each and every command; provided they are rightly programmed, the Net Generation has quite a low threshold of patience and tolerance. They have little time left for indulging in a pleasant chit-chat with their parents over a cup of tea; they prefer taking it while using a computer. The gap, thus, is widening day by day.
It would definitely be unjust to blame the younger lot. The thing has to work both ways. The parents need to adopt a more progressive attitude towards technology. They need not underestimate their ability to operate technological gadgets, or to believe that these wonderful gifts of technology are not meant for them. If the Net Generation can communicate with their friends through instant messaging, the Baby Boomers can, too.
Instead of believing that technology has resulted in a widening of the gulf between generations we can use it to remove this gap. Through a little change in the attitude of each generation we can constructively employ technology. It feels great to receive an SMS from one’s father wishing one a happy birthday and it is great fun and quite an ease wishing your parents on their wedding anniversary through an instant message. All of us know that sometimes it is much easier to communicate digitally, as you don’t have to look the other person in the eyes or receive an immediate emotional feedback. It’s easier, in many cases, to type into a dead computer or a mobile phone. Sharing problems with parents over SMS. IM or the internet could be very convenient. That would definitely help in establishing a better understanding and a more friendly relationship between different generations.
The fruits of any effort that we might make to boost the confidence of our parents to use a technological gadget are too tempting to resist. So the next time your mother rejects your call instead of receiving it, don’t forget to explain the operation again. We need to be patient with our parents as they used to be when they were teaching us new words, or simply how to walk…