Some who comment on social media have postulated that the Young appreciate online social interaction more than the less-Young. ‘Ha’, they say. "We’re the young generation, and we’ve got something to say." - The Monkees circa 1970. The more experienced, they say, aren’t socially agile enough to grasp the satisfactions of the new concepts of social interaction.
This past week I commented on facebook about the decline of geo-located social interaction with the final closing of Borders Books. I was taken to task by an acquaintance I “met” on Consummating a few years ago. Bradley just turned 30 and lives in Eastern Tennessee. He countered that social networks have expanded his world. He attributed his enlightened stance to generational experience that, like blanket radiation, imbues the lot with an easy acceptance of the new paradigms of social media.
Here’s my thread-killing post in its entirety.
"Bradley values communities online for their social diversity and quantity - getting beyond the immediate geographical environs. I live in a place with plenty of social diversity, and I value bonding and social commitment. Case in point - when a person shatters their ankle into toothpicks, a social network isn't going to run errands for you or bring you a pot of chicken soup or hang out and play video games. In fact, the social network hasn't a clue that such acts are even needed. So values determine whether social institutions are benefitting each individual."
"It's not about generation. I interacted with hundreds of thousands in a three-state area as a top rock radio DJ in
Nashville and yes, I did get to know a number of the listeners. I regularly used ATMs, computers. I would have totally been on social media then if it had been available and I would have had much the same relationship with my network as I did with my audience, just as I am on all kinds of social media now. All that said, I'm pleased that online communities are doing so much for so many. It’s just not the same as local in-person relationships."
Were I to comment further on the point, I’d add that there are plenty of 20-somethings who are not active on social
media. And guess what – they’re not speaking up about it on social media.
I’ll agree that people 39+ are generally less exposed to the grand technical evolutions of our era. Younger people tend to maintain that connection with age-peers after their school years until personal life changes the social dynamic. Complexity sets in. One tends to interact with a wider age contingent and maybe self-identity is more apparent in whether you own a dog and what kind of dog, whether you drink coffee and what kind, or other beverages, whether you hang with standard social institutions like religious or sports team-based. Later, work cohorts are not like school cohorts; though you may have closer interactions at work there’s something to be said for professional distance. Social isolation becomes a very real state of being. And thus the continuation of such gathering places as beer gardens in Germany.
And so, what roles will social networks fulfill as we age? Can a social network be as satisfying as repeated singular face2face interactions? It’s easy to adopt facile explanations for the effects of emerging technologies, like emphasizing apparent dicotomies. But really, online social networks have their own purposes and support the purposes of real-life social networks. The Eames' said "Eventually, everything connects."
Experience researcher in high tech, healthcare, and built environments with an anthropology provenance.