Why don’t you all fade away, and don’t try to dig what we all say
I’m not trying to cause a big sensation, I’m just talkin’ ’bout my generation
The Who, “My Generation,” My Generation (1965)
Well, I’ve already dated myself. But I’m going to press on with this post anyway. Catherine Sloan, a recent graduate from the University of Iowa who already has byline credit with USAToday, posted an opinion blog at NextGenJournal.com with the title ““. It has caused something of a ruckus − a sensation, if you will − and commentators and flamers have been debating her post for the last 10 days. Now that some of the heat has dissipated, we wanted to see if she cast any light on the generational and communications experiences of Millennials.
The crux of her argument is that those born between about 1980 and 1995 were old enough to be cognizant of the revolution that social networks have brought to communications, advertising, politics, and art − yet they were young enough to absorb the developments ‘naturally’, which should give them the edge over older communications ‘experts’ who had to learn it like a foreign language.
You might argue that everyone, regardless of age, was along for the ride, or at least everyone under the age of 30. I’m not saying they weren’t, but we spent our adolescence growing up with social media. We were around long enough to see how life worked without it but had it thrown upon us at an age where the ways to make the best/correct use of it came most naturally to us. No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do.
Not surprisingly, those in the business and over 30 responded quickly. The folks at Social Media Today posted a thoughtful.
In July 2009, I wrote a blog post about a social media blunder caused by an intern, and I urged companies to consider the importance of social media and the need for mature, experienced leadership. I was going to edit my old blog post to update it just a bit, and then I realized I didn’t need to do so. While the social media world has matured in the intervening years, the need for true leadership and not just social media familiarity (which Ms. Sloane fails to recognize are not mutually exclusive) has not changed.
And even Next Gen Journal posted a response from a 48-year-old teacher of social media at the University of Maryland, Mark Story, who admits both to being ‘the Last Angry Man’ and to accepting some of her points to allow the conversation to advance rather than flame out (to see other titles of other, sometimes less gracious, challenges to Catherine’s piece, see the screenshot of pingbacks to the left).
Mark mentions an important economic point that should help us appreciate Catherine’s vehemence: unemployment among recent college grads is 53 percent! Catherine is a smart writer with a great resume who probably ‘deserves’ a job in her chosen field. But trickle-down/tax-breaks economics and two wars on the credit card have put the kibosh on economic opportunity for almost everyone (How’s Rafalca doing, Mitt?). What 20-something wouldn’t feel like he or she could run things better than the 40-50-somethings who got us in this mess? One should be a bit disconcerted if she didn’t feel that way.
Most of the many fine, calmer and reasoned, responses to her thought-provoking article stress the need for experience. For trying, making mistakes, and learning from them. We would simply add that usage of X and understanding of X are two different, albeit related, issues that Catherine (and all young people?) make. I have used a car for some 20-plus years now. I’m not sure either that I could race one or change the spark plugs without killing myself.
And when it comes to social media, the people who made it wouldn’t even make the cut. Zuckerberg is 28! Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) is shuffling along at 36! Not to say that they are the best candidates to run your nonprofit’s social-media campaign this holiday season, but if a recent college grad’s resume hit your desk along with Seth Rogan’s, who would you hire?
A final point: for those of you who follow the links to Catherine’s post and the responses we have highlighted here, notice the differences in the headshots between say, Mark Story and. I guess I’m old enough that I expect a headshot for a serious publication (online or otherwise) to look like a minute’s care was taken in its production, not like it was cropped out of a snapshot of friends during the last St.Paddy’s day party. Call me Methusalah.