As a member of Western Washington University’s class of 2013, I find myself right in the middle of the segment of the population demographers have dubbed “Generation Y.” There has been a lot of buzz recently in the popular media about how intergenerational interaction is shaping up in the workplace with the influx of us youngsters, with its concurrent torrent of buzzwords like “tech-savvy,” “digital generation” and I even heard “space age” (is it the 1960s again already?). These stories are nothing new, and the trend for many moons has been for the middle-aged to examine with a mix of awe and incredulity the nature of their up-and-coming young counterparts. There are high expectations that each one of us Gen Yers has been nurtured from infancy in a special digital nutrient slime that has infused our brains with a capacity for near-telepathic interfacing with technology. While this has some truth to it – we did grow up using computers – it is advisable to not let our expectations of a group get in the way of seeing the talents and blind spots of individuals. It is widely known that generalizations have their pitfalls, but in practice it is remarkably easy to fall into their web of mischaracterization.
I have often found myself at the short end of the stick of the shortcutting of generational generalization. I am something of an outlier for my age and cohort: half of my friends are aged over seventy. Last month I read half of the first volume of Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples, but sent only four text messages. I prefer face-to-face meetings, and if something happened only on Facebook I am likely to be out of the loop. In short, I am something of a fuddy-duddy.
In my few months at MSR, I have been fortunate enough to to do work for the Myers Briggs Type Instrument. It’s underpinning theories have given me some new insight into why I have always felt like a bit of an outsider. Knowing that my personality type preference is INFP (Introverted, Intuiting, Feeling, and Perceiving) has helped me to be more comfortable sitting alone on the beach in the fog in a cardigan reading the April 1948 issue of National Geographic. Working with the MBTI is also a reminder of how valuable the foibles and oddities of the individual can be, and how much can be lost through overuse of generalizations about groups when trying to understand individuals.
I am finding my niche in public relations and in the “digital age.” I have even learned how to use the Twitter and am now updating Myface regularly with killer apps. For whatever reason, perhaps because it is still 1890 in my imagination, I had to learn to do these things. Perhaps my brain physiology was resistant to the nutrient slime; maybe I am a reincarnation of William Blake. Whatever the cause, it remains true that my middle-aged Baby Boomer father can text like a teenage girl while I am still texting like a middle-aged Baby Boomer father.
I look forward to sharing with you my new experiences as a PR Pro…