Nov 17, 2010 7:07 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

My Generation: The Effect of Technology on Generation Gaps

Last night we started a conversation on KSBY we want to pick back up tonight. We're talking about my generation. And your generation. We gathered Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers. We put them into a room for two hours. What we got was a lot of perspective on the generation gap. Tonight we tackle the issue of technology and whether it's bridging the generation gaps, or making the divides even wider.

Millennials. They're 10 to 30 year olds and the up and comers.

Generation X'ers. They're 31 to 45 years old. They're often well-educated and self-reliant.

And Baby Boomers. They are 46 to 64 year old. They may have been rebellious in their younger days, but they've mellowed over the years.

Three different generations, living in the same world, but raised in much different ones. "You could come out of high school at your age and start a job start a business, you can't do that now." Tony Kirkorian argues with a Baby Boomer. His point doesn't go over real well with the Boomers. "When I graduated college, I went to work in the fields to get to college." Roberta Alderete points out. "And I worked in the summers to stay at Cal Poly, and then after that I went knocking on doors. And it was difficult, because I was a woman."

That strikes a chord with fellow Boomer Betsey Nash. "When I graduated college, you still couldn't get credit in your name. It had to be in your husbands name." It's a time Boomer Debbie Peterson remembers as well. "I think at that time if you wanted to run a company as a woman, you had to start your company."

"I am curious of the Millenials, are there any jobs that you feel are out of bounds, simply because you are a woman?" I ask the youngest generation gathered in front of me. They think about it for a moment and answer "no." The older generation of women clap and one yells "hallelujah".

There's nothing new about generation gaps, but there's an added factor in the mix these days. "Technology is going through the roof." says Kramer Tartaglia. That's true, and it's prompted come concern from Baby Boomers like Andrea Devit about the Millennials. "I think they're losing touch with their own communities when they don't read the newspaper. Because you can't really find out what's happening in your communities."

"Of the Millinneals, how many of you read a local paper daily? Whether it's on line or or whatever?" Jeanette asks. Three Millennials raise their hands. "It's mostly the internet, though, what's the tribune saying, what's that paper saying, you know?"

Millennials may be the less inclined to read the local newspapers, but they aren't necessarily less interested in the world which they live. "So does that resonate with you at all, that you might not be as in touch with what's going on in your community?" I ask the crowd. "'Cuz we're not reading the paper?" asks an incredulous Patrick Maier. "I'm curious. When you read the news what stories are you looking for?" I ask him. "Well the first thing I would do is go to the newyorktimes.com and read the international section."

The world in which we live is shrinking, and they're sphere of influence is growing. "To say we're losing touch because we're not reading a print newspaper, I think, that's kind of false. I don't think the stories are any different on line than they are in print." says Maier. He gets support from Baby Boomer Betsey Nash. "I think Millennials get a bad wrap. I know the feeling is that they got awards just for showing up for kindergarten. And they got an award even if they were the worst player on the soccer team." Marci Powers continues her thought. "Speaking for boomers, we grew up in such a different era. You wanted to keep your job. You had to get there on time. You had to perform. You had to be loyal to the company and once you got your job you were there for like 20 to 30 years. That just doesn't happen anymore."

Millennials are mobile in so many ways. But so are we all. "I work for a technology company and I was able to work from home." says Boomer Joe Mangin. "I think face to face, being articulate, face to comfortable face to face with some people is starting to be a lost art. I had to learn a whole new way of getting to know people and showing them I was capable of doing the job. But I think face to face, being articulate, face to face with some people is starting to be a lost art."

But Boomer Shannon Dempsey has worked from home too and says things are coming full circle. "Oddly enough, I used to be able to work at home in my pajamas, well I can't anymore, because now everyone skypes me. So it's almost as though you have to be able to communicate now through video."

Technology does open up the geographic boundaries of relationships. Millennials may be more of an open book than any of the older generations. You can get to know someone through a simple Google search or Facebook. But Millennial Nadia Nosrati points out the dangers in that. "Like Facebook photos, you can do something really dumb, and your friend posts it."

Millennials have had to deal with a whole new level of consequences for adolescent mistakes, games, or outright electronic assaults. "Do you think you have thicker skins?" I ask them. "It's just a different playing field." says Brendan Heinichen. It has an impact, but so does a punch to the face. That has an impact, it's just getting used to a different playing field". "It has changed the way I have dealt with my kids and interact with my kids. Because I have to adjust to that."

"I think most people who are using technology are using it to stay in touch with people." says Boomer Betsey Nash. "They're just using it in a different way." "And on the positive side, my wife was just able to skype with my daughter who's in the Ukraine." Joe Mangin points out.

Russ Levanway owns a technology firm and says there's no going back to the so-called good old days.

"I just don't see it going back that way. I just see that as the new normal. And I see some huge advantages, like they can have a huge network of people that they know."

The technology Millennials embrace so readily, he says, could be the key to our economic recovery. manufacturing is heading overseas. And all those new gadgets and gadget owners will need help now and then. "From cars,to washing machines to computers. They need to be serviced, maintained by technology experts, and of the younger generation is immersed in that technology, and they are poised to take advantage of that."

the question is, will they be able to hang with their elder employers? And will their elder employers be able to hang with them. "I mean myself as a boomer, I took a lot of crap jobs to put myself through college. And started in a low end, and I felt it was necessary to put my time in to get the kind of job I needed." Boomer Mike Lee compares his generation to the younger one coming up.

Shannon Dempsey hires a lot of Millennials and has her doubts. "I did actually see in that generation the entitlement because they expected so much within 6 months of employment, that you normally wouldn't expect until maybe a year or two. They didn't always have the patience to walk people through the software program. And things like that"

Russ Levanway is optimistic. "I find Millennials are incredibly productive people, you just have to be wiling to change your structure. And the way you interact with them." Dempsey still wonders. "Well how many companies have that flexibilty. There's a lot of us that have to that structure because of the market we service."

The discussion continues tonight on KSBY news at 6 and 11. And we'd love for you to join in. Post your comments here and we'll read some of them toward the end of our news at 6.

Tomorrow we try to look into the crystal ball a bit. What does the future hold for all these generations, and how will their abilities to work together effect that future.



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