Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pre Mid-life Crisis the Technology Divide

Next week I turn 30 and I’m having a pre mid-life crisis. As much as I enjoyed working for Aspiration (the technology) nonprofit that taught me about blogs, wikis and social media, I feel this new technology is connecting me more with millennial's and distancing me from many of my older colleagues that aren't as technology savvy.

I am constantly using new forms of technology and information. I just got a new MacBook and set up my firefox browser with awesome add ons that allow me to see my delicious bookmarks, twitter updates, facebook account, and my new favorite thing is tag and cite research through zotero without having to go to those individual sites.

I am not trying to separate myself from my non-technology savvy colleagues, but I am really enjoying social networking and staying connected to my friends and colleagues online. I don’t want to tell my colleagues you should be using these social media tools, however I wish there was some way the generations can stop our assumptions of one another and appreciate what we all bring to the table. For example, the ARNOVA keynote asked the audience what advice would you give to people in their 20’s and 30’s -- and someone said pay attention, get off your blackberry. I happened to be on my handheld at the time--live blogging and laughed out loud when I heard this (I’ve done that a lot this conference) because I thought to myself --I am paying attention its just in a different way than older generations are used too.

This also came up in another session about about creating online communities for American Humanics students, one of the presenters said that millennials need to listen to the ED's in what culture they create for the organzation and if it isn't a culture of twittering and facebooking than get used to it. A colleague of mine told me how she got frustraited because her staff member was on facebook and when she told that particular staff member to get off facebook, they replied, but I just got a new donor for the organization. We must appreciate the work that has happend before us but also realize "These times are a changing" and technology is opening up new opportunities. I like many millenials receive updates from the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other nonprofits hrough Twitter as well as updates from friends and colleagues. These forms of media are providing new opportunities for nonprofits to raise money and connect with their constituents in a new way.

Last night some ARNOVA members mostly senior leaders well known for their scholarly work engaged in several performances as a humorous and fun talent show. I particularly enjoyed Dennis Young perform Bob Dylan’s song These Times are a Changing. He was totally off key, however this song (released in 1963) is particularly important for the boomer generation and the movements that ensued in the 60’s. Then I thought about a song that really resonates with me and my generation by John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change. Gen X and Y may not have the same type of movements that the boomers had in the 60’s but we certainly have a movement going on -- a movement of the use of technology.


Dave said...

Heather, I'm not that much older than you, but I am married and have children and "real life" friends and family to tend to. I do not partake of social networking because my life is too busy, not because I am less savvy technically (in fact, I would suggest that I am probably quite a lot more experienced and "tech savvy" than 99% of those who use twitter...being a technologist and all). I wonder less about boomers and older gen x'ers' savviness, and more about young people's ability to consume these forms of engagement once they have a different lifestyle and less free time. Go to your favorite bar and see how many older folks are partaking. Do you think that they didn't go to bars when they were in their 20's and 30's?

Heather Carpenter said...


Thanks for your comments -- check out my post "What are the downsides to using social media." It addresses the issues you bring up.

BTW--I am married too and have real life friends, family and issues to deal with too. :) I just choose to do both online social networking and real life social networking.

Dave said...

Wait til you have kids and a full-time job and aging parents! :-) I didn't see anything in that other post that really touched on the point I'm making. The divide you are positing is between tech-savvy and non-tech-savvy. I think that is not where the divide lies, generally. I'm very tech savvy, but I have no time for twittering or updating a facebook page. Or, I do not make time for it, as other things are more important to me. I'd rather read my daughter a story than send a tweet to a bunch odf strangers.

I know lots of tech savvy people who feel the same way.

Heather Carpenter said...

ok, we just have a difference in priorities. The people I twitter with aren't strangers to me. Plus -- a lot of my "friends" on twitter and facebook are older, especially my friends and colleagues in the nonprofit tech arena. Thats my experience, however yours might be a different one.

Dave said...

Boy, I'm having a hard time getting my point across. I saw your tweets (see how tech savvy I am!). I'm sorry if you thought I was implying that you have "no life" or you took my comments as an attempt to hurt you ("ouch...."). I honestly didn't mean to do that and I apologize for causing you any distress. I can see why you might have reacted that way. I was commenting out of disagreement mainly with your assumption that your "older colleagues" were not as "techy savvy" because they do not engage Whether you realize it or not, that is pretty offensive to "older" technology folks who have chosen not to immerse themselves in the social networking world, but (at least in my case) are actual technology professionals who are doing cutting edge online work, but not in a position to tweet about every sandwich eaten or read tweets from 100 "friends" about the sandwiches and tv shows they are about to view or just viewed.

I know that there is a lot to be gained in the information received through social networks, but there is a ton of noise as well. I use linkedin and read blogs through an rss reader, but facebook and twitter are just outside the time I have available. And my point was that if you look at the people who are most avid tweeters they are generally (not always) some combination of: 1) students, 2) stay-at-home parents, 3)technology evangelists (they are paid to be engaged in social networks--consultants, marketers, etc.)4) childless (kids grown or nonexistent), or some combination thereof.

Again, I obviously touched a nerve, and I apologize if I came on too strong. But your post touched one of my current pet peeves. That is, the assumption that if you do not engage deeply in social networks that you are somehow less "savvy." There are many other reasons to avoid it.