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The convenient method of distinguishing generations by a separation of 18 to 25 years, and attributing distinct characteristics to those generations, whether they are termed Baby Boomers, Generation Y, or Millennials, no longer serves as a benchmark to capture and separate the personality of any particular generation.  Until recent years, we helped identify generations through their musical tastes, the “Greatest Generation,” that bridged the Great Depression and World War 11, with big band music, Baby Boomers with classic rock, and Millennials, in part, with Hip Hop.  We now live in an era where the constantly evolving state of technology has come to shape and reshape the daily habits and perceptual apparatus of succeeding groups of youth.   Just watch a YouTube video capturing the puzzlement displayed by current 6 to 14-year olds (Generation Z) when confronted with a Sony Walkman.  To Generation Z members, the technology of the 1980’s looks more like artifacts belonging in the Smithsonian Museum.  To a six-year old today, dial-up access to the Internet would seem like a retreat to the Dark Ages.  A person of 50 might recall dial-up days as an annoyance, but at the time of initial use, a portal to a magical treasure trove of information.


The shrinking spacing of generations, increasingly demarcated by the adoption technology, is illustrated by the historical timeline that demonstrates how long it took one quarter of the American population to acquire the dominate emerging technology.  It took 46 years for one-quarter of the population to acquire electricity.   It took 36 years for the same portion of the population to own a telephone.  Consider the time gap between the invention of the telegraph and radio.  By contrast, between 2011 and 2013, 56% of Americans had acquired a smartphone.   A child born after 2000 was likely reared in a residence with computers, mobile phones, and Wi-Fi.   The methods that preteens and teens use to contact one another and access entertainment are so vastly different from those of Baby Boomers that their means are viewed as a much better barometer for future trends.  Consider that young teens spend merely 2% of messaging time using email.  Adults allocate 33% of message time doing so.


The rapid fragmentation of new generations is evidenced by the impending succession of smartphones to wearables.  Now factor the inevitable evolution to technology implanted in the human body, a phenomenon that makes more dramatic McLuhan’s connection of the computer and the human brain.

While this blog intends to outline the increasing digital divide and redefinition of what constitutes a generation, my next blog will address methods that can bring generations together through shared and meaningful modes of communication.


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