Generation Y, sometimes referred to as the Millennias or the Net Generation, are individuals born in the 1980’s and 1990’s. As a cool fact, Generation Y is largely considered the last generation wholly born in the 20th century. 71% of Generation Y participate in monthly social networking, while almost 29% participate daily. There is little to speak of as far as memories of the Cold War not directly related to a video game or movie go. It is the first generation that came of age during the technology-driven changes of the Bill Clinton presidency.
A simplistic one word answer to describe this generation is “Internet”. They were the first to grow up with the Internet in a developed form, including music downloads, instant messaging and cellular phones. Even before they could type or click their way through the Internet, Generation Y was testing the limitations of such technology and creating new desires for what was then deemed alien-like communication. This generation grew up with TV choices that reduced the commonality of the viewing experience. It can be credited with invigorating young minds to demand more in the user experience, while business whether local or national scrambled to attract the attention of a new generation, a new way of thinking.
Generation Y is largely considered very tolerant of both multiculturalism and internationalism, more so than any of the previous generations. The growing trend of larger acceptance scales can be directly defined and supported by a new tool given to all people of any generation: social networking. By no means is social networking the end all be all reason for acceptance. I would never argue such a positioning on that issue, but a realistic observation does help explain the trend: advancement. The advancement of interaction alone, with the specific contributions of the Internet, has allowed Generation Y to become more socially accepting and more socially tolerant. The Internet has empowered users to control more of simple conversation, desired purchases, and business transactions too.
Which leads to the million dollar question: How does Generation Y describe, define or feel about social networking?
Participate first, ask questions later.
Now begins the debate on whether social networking is regulated closely enough, and how individuals can give away so much information. Bluntly put, it is what everyone is doing. The old adage “do it first, ask questions later” is something that Generation Y has taken and run with. They share information, which can include: who they are friends with, what they are reading, what they are doing, and what the best way to reach them is. The days of inability to keep tabs on your friends, colleges or other businesses are long gone. With social networking, Generation Y is able to rekindle old relationships, find new friends, and favorite brands that they like while also ignoring brands that they don’t.
Social networks can be as general as Facebook, as texting heavy as Twitter, or specific as LinkedIn – that allows you to make certain connections in one group, while making entirely different connections in another. Generation Y feeds off of the ability to have different groups of people on entirely different networks, but connect all of them with the press of a button. Away from the power of the Internet, the best described resemblance of that ability would be like having real life friends in the United States, business friends in Canada, soccer club friends in Europe, and cooking class friends on Mars.
There is simply no viable alternative to the power of social networking. Generation Y thrives on the nature of social interaction. This generation has cell phones that never leave their side, and status updates on 11 different sites generated in 140 characters or less with nothing more than two thumbs. Within groups, whether online or offline – the demand for social conversation and interaction has grown leaps and bounds. Social networking becomes the place where you first find, hear or search. Generation Y get their stock tips pushed directly to their cell phone, why they first hear about relationships ending on their Facebook newsfeed.
Generation Y takes dependency to what can be scarily deemed an unhealthy level. The ability to interact with people faster than you can say the words “check up on” is expected rather than wished for. Social networking allows you to save time on business interaction, while flourishing in personal interaction. Generation Y has never lived in a world without social networking, and might ask you if you were joking if you made reference to a world without it. Does it create opportunities for lost time? Yes. Does it create a requirement of constant attention? Yes. But it also creates one very simple and beautiful trait: response. Whether you receive the response you desire, in the manner you desire, in the timely fashion you desire is not promised; but it further leverages need above offering. Social networking empowers the individual. By making networking easier, and adding new definitions to what any person would describe “social” to mean; social networking has revolutionized community sharing.
But at what cost? I will delve into the other side of the social networking coin with a follow up piece tomorrow. Social Networking is a drug, and at what point does it turn from recreational to addiction? Generation Y more than covets the ability to share they simply demand it. Generation Y has made it a part of their everyday lives. It sure does give a new meaning to “never leave home without it” huh?