Andy Braner, who is the CEO of KIVU, recently wrote a really insightful blog post entitled ‘Tweet, Text or Talk’, which I really enjoyed. He is talking about the effect social media is having on Generation Y in particular (but all generations). What he articulates very clearly is that this new way of talking and interacting is creating and sustaining a new way of living. Social media as a platform for new ways of communicating is nothing new. Young people’s ‘new’ tools are not actually that new. But perhaps what is new (now that social media has been around a few years) is considering the impact of social media and how we are going to respond to it in our homes and very importantly in our work places.
Barner works with young people all the time, so luckily for him he has on going opportunities to talk to Generation Y about their lives. He writes about a conversation he had with a group of young people who trust him:
I asked a group of students last week, “How many friends do you have on Facebook?”
One boy answered, “I have 1,200 friends on Facebook.”
“Really?” I asked in amazement. I couldn’t recall a time in my youth where I would ever have over three to four friends.
“How many of those friends, if they called you, would you answer and talk with?” I asked, fishing for an answer about how many people he really connects with apart from social media.
“Maybe 20,” He answered with a big smile confirming his own sense of popularity.
“Of those 20, how many of those friends would actually come over to your house when you’re world is falling apart, and just know you needed them?”I pushed further.
“Maybe 2?” He answered.
I knew right then, the definition of friendship has been replaced.
I’m finding more and more teenagers don’t have “hang out places” anymore, they’ve found their tribe of friends on social media and smart phones. Looking someone in the eye is a foreign concept for a new generation of emerging adults.
So I wonder…
Without creating a ‘demon in the cell phone’ attitude, what is really happening to us as humans? I’m reminded of the Pixar movie Wall-E, where the robot is whisked away to the floating city in outer space where the humans hang out. The ship is full of overweight social misfits who actually talk to one another side by side over a computer screen.
For the majority of audiences, we watched that movie and found it ridiculous that someone wouldn’t just lean over and talk to their friend sitting right beside them, but I’m watching our teens evolve into just those people.
Yesterday, I was talking with a group of students and I asked, ‘Where do you guys go to just have fun?” And the look on their eyes told me all I needed to know.
Have you ever tried to explain a particular concept to someone and see the ‘deer in the headlights’ look? It was as if I asked these English-speaking natives a question in Arabic. They had no idea what I was talking about.
“We don’t go anywhere with a group. We hang out on our phones. Why would I go somewhere to hang out when I can carry everyone with me in my back pocket?” as he held up his iPhone.
The world has changed. We have decisions to make as parents. Are we going to continue to promote relationships over a computer screen, OR, are we going to intervene and raise a generation that sees the world around them in reality? The friendships made on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are awesome, and I don’t want to diminish the value of living in a technological world. But in the same breath, my follow up question is simple: When are we going to provide outlets for our students to engage in face to face relationships?
A lot of what Braner asks is around friendship and what we should be thinking as parents. I would like to expand these questions into all relationships, including work-related ones and what should we be thinking as managers or colleagues.
How is this new methodology of communication changing the workforce and therefore impacting your workplace?
Rather than reacting by suggesting that these new codes of behaviour should fit in with your familiar ways of working, perhaps you could discuss in your teams next week how you could all find ways to harness the opportunities that exist with varied perspectives; and, let your newest recruit set the agenda and chair the meeting. Oh; and bring cake.