Social Media, Text Messages, Twitter: A generational divide

As I have gotten older, I find myself much more strongly connected to the natural world than when I was a younger person. Those who know me well would be surprised to hear me say that because I have always been an avid gardener and for the last decade a cyclist…my pleasure in being outdoors does not seem new to them. As I sit on my porch watching the last glow of the sunset on the lake behind our home and write this blog post on my laptop, I am struck by the contrast of that focus on nature and my simultaneous reliance on technology to accomplish my work tasks and to maintain many of my connections to the people in my life.

After all, we were among the first psychologists in our circle to get computers when the Kaypro 4 became available. For you youngsters, that was a CPM based machine that preceded IBM personal computers. And then we started the software business; technology has been our lifeblood. We have had a website since the early 90’s; we use email as much or more than the telephone. SOS has used customer forums on Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups as a very effective way of helping our customers help one another.

Nevertheless, I am totally flummoxed by social media. I signed up for Linked In a couple of years ago. That seemed like a reasonable way to network with other professionals. I have always been an avid networker. Then, this year, I started using an Internet marketing product and consultant to help us get up to speed. I was told that I needed to be on Facebook and to use Twitter. I have always been good at following instructions, so I got a Facebook account and signed up for Twitter. I started writing this blog, which has been great fun, and has put me in touch with our customers and others on a different level.

Now for the BUT! I just cannot get used to certain aspects of social media. I wrote our personal holiday letter this year along with some photos. Within 24 hours I had an email from my niece saying that my photos were all over gigglestalk. I had never heard of that site, so I went to explore it. I was put off by having to pay for it unless I text-messaged a cancellation within some time frame. I am sure the name is intended to be some cute combination of giggles and talk…send funny messages to one another. I could not help but see the more sinister giggle stalk…and I don’t text message so I could not even be sure I would be able to cancel the $9.99 service. I log onto Twitter each day and I usually leave some kind of message about what I am doing; but I am extremely uncomfortable every time somebody says they are “following” me. Then, today while on our tandem bicycle ride, I got a text message from that same niece…and responded (a two letter response, so it was not a big deal), but I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

I really feel old admitting to these things. Is there a generational divide on being so public with personal information? My biggest worry about electronic health records is the risk of breach of privacy of myself and anyone else who wants their health information kept private. Has my generation (baby boomers all) become anachronistic in these matters, or do younger folks worry about others having TMI (too much information)? R u k w/ all of this? Do those of us over 50 just need to get over it? Will younger folks be hurt by what they reveal now in a public forum and can never take back? Am I just demonstrating the paranoia that runs deep in my generation?

Tell me what you think about these things. How do you use social media…personally and in your work? Where do you see these technologies going? Are there tools we need to be using and developing to facilitate the functioning of our customers in these electronic social spheres?

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Kathy Peres
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0 thoughts on “Social Media, Text Messages, Twitter: A generational divide

  • The trick will be to match the tools that we communicate with our customers and audiences as they evolve into these new methods, and to be nimble enough to adjust our message for multiple formats. This was even a plot line on an episode of this week’s “Brothers and Sisters” show when a 40-something executive “didn’t Twitter and didn’t have a Facebook page” for her tech startup.

  • Thanks for your Comment, David, and the link to your blog post. As co-owner of a small software company in the behavioral health community, I have found that our users tend to fall at the two extremes of the Consumer Reports/HuffingtonPost continuum. Age is one of the factors that divides; I would venture to guess that gender and role within the organization are two other contributors. Then there is the nerd factor; within the mental health community there are early adopters who are nerd/geek-like in their behaviors no matter their age.

    I have also found that, the longer we are around, the more our customer base changes. Some of our earliest customers (we have been around since 1985) are retiring or their staff people are doing so and are being replaced by younger folks who are very comfortable with all things Internet. I am sure that movement will continue. Finally, since we are providers of the primary software products that some of our customers use, we educate them about the world of technology. It is possible that they will explore more readily if they are exposed to more information and opportunities to do so.

    Kathy Peres

  • I recently wrote about this topic with respect to how different generations consume media.

    I was at a meeting this week that drove home the big generational divide in online and offline media consumption. At the podium was a 20-something CEO of a new venture that is trying to work with new college grads. In the audience were people mostly twice his age of captains of industry. The young CEO was asked what he thought about using content that was similar to the way Consumer Reports rates and compares products. After a pause and a blank look, he said, “I don’t know what you mean, I never heard of that publication.” That got a big laugh from the audience, but his ignorance was genuine. The Q&A continued, and he mentioned a few moments later how he gets a lot of his information from the Web site Now it was the moment of being perplexed for the gentlemen sitting next to me, who leaned over to ask me if I have ever heard of such a publication. His ignorance was also the real deal.
    So where do you stand on the Consumer Reports/HuffingtonPost axis? And more importantly, where do your readers stand as well? How savvy are they with using online media to get their information?

    You can read more here on my blog post.

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