my turn

Commentary

The Kids Are From Planet i

The generation whose oldest members are now around 20 are called iGen. That’s good. I never liked Gen Z. My daughter, who is Gen Z, thinks it’s idiotic and keeps asking me what generation comes next. “Nobody, until you’re out of college and married.” I don’t really say that, of course. I usually say something like “Season 2.” But iGen actually makes sense, given that this is the first to reach the age of unreason in an always-connected world.

New research from market firm (with the sinister, science-fiction name) Center for Generational Kinetics, says most of the youngest Americans are four times more likely to think people should get a smartphone by the time they’re 13 than any other generation, including Gen Y. That says a lot. For kids my daughter’s age, connectivity should come before confirmation, or at least with confirmation, as a present. The study also says iGen confirms that social media affects their self-esteem and popularity, as well as dating and job prospects. For the latter, it is hard for older generations to appreciate the power of social media as a hiring tool.

I overheard a conversation between a couple in their 50’s about the rigors of job hunting. One of the two was marveling about how employers want to know about your status as a social-media influencer. “Nowadays, they want to know how many Twitter followers you have.”

Also, over a third said social media affects their happiness. How depressing is that? I would venture to say that a lot of people my age think social media use and isolation have a directly proportional relationship, e.g., social media is antisocial. But that difference clearly has a lot to do with point of access. The study doesn’t need to say this: for iGen, the internet means mobile, since (as confirmed by this study) those following in Gen Y’s wake favor Vine, Instagram and Twitter, in that order, and then Pinterest and Periscope. They’re jacking in through their phones, obviously.

That suggests that a lot of their social media use is also happening while they are with friends, going to meet friends, or busy sharing what they are doing out in the world. This is from direct observation of my daughter, nieces, nephews and their friends.

For people my age, social media is likely to be Facebook and Twitter on a desktop device, on a desk top, or a table at the coffee place around the corner, where you go to convince yourself that what you are doing is not at all something you could do, alone, 20 to life, in a 12-by-7 Supermax cell.

Facebook isn’t even among the top five social media channels for iGen in the above study. “We really don’t think about Facebook anymore,” says my daughter. “We think it’s for old people.” There you have it. As a certain Republican frontrunner would put it, on his favorite social channel, or maybe just his favorite channel: “Facebook? So static. Not phone friendly. Sad.”

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