(Above: interns John and Hayden during a team meeting, using Skype since Hayden lives an hour away.)
Generation Y is referred to by many names; often, the Millennial Generation and the Internet Generation because most don’t remember life before websites and cell phones.
There’s not a consensus on the dates when Generation Y actually starts, researchers give a birthdate range of late 1970s to early 2000s. Technically I would fall into this group, but as many people born on the edge of a generation, you’re sandwiched between two groups and can have traits of both.
When I meet with my college aged interns, I certainly don’t feel part of the same generation they are, and I think they would agree. (Though one sweet intern said, “Sarah, I consider you part of my generation.” I did not argue with her opinion and it made me feel a bit younger.)
The Millennials are students who got their first email addresses around third grade, their first cell phones in middle school and they haven’t looked back. Technology isn’t a big deal to them – it’s life. It’s how they’ve grown up.
Now to state my age, here are my “I remember when” moments…I remember when the Internet was in its infant stages for consumers. I remember hearing that my aunt went to college to be a computer programmer when no one even knew what that meant. I remember the early Internet chat rooms, my first email address arrived in my early high school years, and I got my first cell phone – a flip phone – when I was a junior in college.
So to say I’m part of the same generation that has learned everything from the Internet feels a little weird.
You know what else is weird? These Millennials know how to unplug. It’s unfair to talk about a whole generation but for years all we saw in the media was how this younger generation was plugged into technology constantly.
Last semester, two of my interns were seniors in college. Intern John made a relaxed comment about a project, “It will get done.” This spurred a conversation, in which he shared his view of Gen Y. He said many have that laid back attitude because when he needs to, he can get out his phone, finish his homework, and hand it in, no matter where he is located. His fellow interns agreed.
These bright young minds also said they don’t have a problem unplugging.
“Why do you want to be plugged in all the time? The information will be there later,” said Intern Krista.
They’ve grown up with technology all around them so it’s just “not a big deal.”
They pointed at me and said, “For people like you [who didn’t grow up with it], it’s harder for you to unplug.”
And you know what? I think they have a fantastic point. Here we are pointing the finger and these young Gen Yers when it’s really the fringe of the generation or even Gen X that is having a hard time unplugging and suffering from technology fatigue.
How did this happen? How did we miss it? How do we learn from Gen Y to just put our smart phones down? I understand this isn’t a problem for everyone, but for those who are using this type of connectivity as part of their jobs there is a big separation in philosophies about being connected. Some of us in the older part of Gen Y jump at every ping on our cell phones and work all the time, the younger part says, “Why? It will get done.”
Maybe part of it is learning to set boundaries.
Which generation do you identify with? Do you have a problem unplugging? Or do you know things will get done?