Today I saw this comic about – well, take a look and see for yourself. I’m a big fan of XKCD, a fact that is probably very apparent when you see my own cartoon attempts. Sincerest form of flattery, you know …
Anyway, back to the point. Old people (i.e. anyone over, ooh, let’s say 27 years of age) have been saying for hundreds of years that younger people are uncommunicative, antisocial, selfish and lazy. There are quotes going right back to 1871 – and of course to top it all there’s Cicero*. If you needed any proof that nothing really changes, there you go.
So what’s the issue? These ‘youths’ grow up very soon to become the next cohort of grumbling middle-aged killjoys, claiming that standards were higher when they were young. Since we don’t yet appear to be living in caves due to the inexorable decline in societal mores, I have to assume there’s been a bit of exaggeration going on.
Yesterday I sat in a meeting that turned into a discussion about social media; how we fear it, how we use it (or avoid it) and what we could do with it if only we were brave enough. One participant was totally adamant that there was no point to social media, no useful role for it in professional or private life, and it was a waste of time. That’s fine and good, he’s entitled to his opinion. But … there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? … someone then reminded us all that young people don’t feel that way, and they are the customers of the future. Worse, they’re the customers of the present.
There are citizens out there, aged under 21, who have never had to queue to make an appointment. Who read news on Tumblr or Twitter, not physical media. Who tax their cars, buy their shoes and pay their bills online. They have jobs and pay tax. They claim benefits. They own or rent property. They pay into pension schemes. They get married. They become parents. They drive or cycle or take buses and trains. They are our customers as surely as their parents and grandparents are. They are proper grown ups with responsibilities and expectations, and we are still trying to pretend that their connected world is a playground fad.
I think if we try to hold on to that feeling, that attitude that we’re the grown ups and we know best, because we say so … I think we’re going to lose.
*“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”