You all have probably heard someone saying things such as: “Where is this world heading to?”; “There was order, back in the days…”; “What’s going on with kids these days – I don’t get it…” and so on. No matter what the direct cause for one of these phrases is, you can easily tell that the individual voicing their opinion is an elderly person. It is also not hard to guess roughly what the topic of that conversation could be.
What we are discussing here is the generation gap: one of those perpetual topics that somehow always finds a way into a conversation with each new generation, as it seems to be continuously inspired by the changes in society. These shifts have become a constant presence throughout human history, while adapting to them is inherent to human nature. However, the older one gets the harder it becomes to adaptat as the comfort zones of what we know and like increase the fear of changes, keeping us tilting.
Consequently, the bigger and more radical the change, the bigger the fear – especially with older people – which in turn makes the generation gap wider and deeper. New information technology that lead to changes we justifiably refer to as the IT revolution as it radically shifted the overall way of life, represents a kind of social change that naturally widened the generation gap. To worry about the future of the world as we know it, “‘cuz the younger people are glued to their phone screens” is a demonstrated fear of the older generation too afraid of things to come, frozen in time and unwilling to adapt.
It seems as even in this particular aspect things are moving forward. New technologies – that we colloquially refer to when we talk about the widespread use of communication gadgets and apps – are not a novelty anymore. They have been a part of our contemporary culture for over two decades now, becoming so intrinsic to our everyday existence that it would be hard to imagine a life without them. If there was ever a worried parent who tirelessly tried to unglue the children stuck to a screen, it is not so hard to imagine two teenagers today chatting, one complaining to another about the parents being boring with constant messages and oversharing photos via Viber and WhatsApp, unhappy that their kids are not responding in kind, essentially ignoring them. At the same time the other one adds that his parents are so embarrassing, sharing things and opinions on Facebook, taking their crazy to new extremes now that they discovered Instagram.
Who knows, we may be entering a phase where the generation gap will appear between the parents complaining about how younger generations are not using everything that new technologies have to offer and refuse to learn from their wiser and better-informed seniors.
As of late, I had to tackle this topic and the accompanying gap in more detail than anyone my age would expect me to. The cause for it all being the twelfth Weekend Media Festival that is traditionally taking place end of September every year in Rovinj. The panel that I am hosting is titled “It is never too late”. The main topic of the panel has nothing to do with the classical generation gap misunderstanding scenario. The idea is to talk about whether new technologies, that created an entirely new media world and context for global communication of today, represent an opportunity for new business ventures pioneered by the members of the older generation. There is significant difference in understanding the change that is happening and seeing a chance in these new circumstances to develop a new business idea.
This year’s panel “It is never too late” is in effect a third sequel to a series of panels that I hosted at the previous editions of the WMF. Two years ago, at the “Back to the Future” discussion, my panelists were kids aged 10 to 13. They took the stage to explain what new media for them really is and how they use it for the audience comprised of industry professionals, seasoned media and marketing specialists. Last year, with “Youth Will Inherit the World… As Soon as The Adults Allow It” we explained the generation gap from a perspective of a teenager, presenting also two businesses and one philanthropic venture that were kick-started by young people armed with new technologies that helped them initiate the projects in the first place.
The third act of the show will see an experienced marketing professional talking about how he became an “anti-influencer”, increasing the number of followers from 800 to 21,000 in a single year, becoming not only a famous Twitter person but a recognized TV personality as well.
A 70-year-old owner of an infamous restaurant with a two-decade strong tradition, will share the insight into how he decided to venture into street food movement, aimed at young people and who he partnered with on the project.
The anticipation is palpable, and I must admit that my nerves may be getting the best of me, this year. For the last two panels I was just observing and interpreting. As a digital immigrant I introduced the audience to several digital natives. Now the distance has been erased, as all three of us are experienced beginners. We’ll see how it goes…