You cannot beat the generation gap

There appears to be a growing generation gap. The press is full of it, yet the gap has always been there. As a teenager, doing my final exams, I had to produce a synopsis of a lengthy article. The whole article was about the degeneration of the young and how they did not follow the examples set by their parents. The reference at the end of the article was the biggest surprise – the article had been written in Roman times.

The other evening I went to a gathering of the residents association in our part of town. We are getting a new public square courtesy of the Jerwood organisation which is building a gallery and the town Council. It will be a great addition, at least I believe it will be.

A survey had been done amongst residents what they wanted to see happen in this public space. Two things happened – the response was clearly from the old folks and there was little or no input from the next generation. Why is this? Because they are not interested?

Looking at how our residents’ organisation communicates with its members the reasons become clear. In the interests of ‘inclusiveness’ communications are on paper, looking old fashioned and very very tired. Anyone under the age of 35 is going to completely ignore it.

When the question was raised about including younger people in the process we were told they had no interest. No doubt that answer was correct. If you are under 30 do you really want to be involved with a bunch of old folk desperately holding onto their values? Equally there is a fear amongst this older generation of the younger generation, as a few of them get drunk on night and race their little cars down our streets. But lumping them all together and ignoring them show s a blatant lack of ‘inclusiveness’.

Before I talk about addressing this issue I want to add one more point that was made to me, which was possibly the most interesting. The point is that the next generation is not ‘social’ because they spend all their time on ‘gadgets’ rather than talking to each other in the pub.

How wrong can we be? I watch the young constantly on their phones, on Facebook, Twitter and a range of other social media I desperately try to keep up with. They are extremely social and they communicate exceedingly well – probably better than we ever did. Whatever happens in the elections in the US, the elections 2 years ago were driven by this kind of communication and social interactivity.

Is there a solution? Of course there is. Start by communicating at their level. This does not only apply to our little residents’ association, but equally to Councils and politicians and most of all to our own organisations. If we do not embrace the communications and the social interconnectiveness we gain from social media we will be ignored by the next generation. They will build their own networks their way.

We like to sit in meetings, often endless. We doodle to stay awake or even make notes. Perhaps in future meetings will take place in cyberspace somehow and I do not mean video conferencing. Is it possible we will one day hold meetings on Facebook in a secure space (if such a thing exists)? I already find I communicate a lot with people through Skype messaging and hold complete conversations through emails with groups of people.

I am still old fashioned – I like to see the people I am dealing with at some point over a cup of coffee or in a pub, but I strongly dislike these meetings with endless amounts of hot air. Better to meet on Facebook.

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