Technology and the Widening Generation Gap

When I began this blog series I started with an idea and then listed out the topics which sprang to mind. As usual however, the topics have almost chosen themselves as day to day things happen which inspire me to write.

Today it was a failed attempt to share a video on Facebook of a group of American teenagers trying to make a phone call with a 'rotary' phone. Anyone over the age of 35 will remember one of these from the hallway or kitchen of their childhood home or grandparent's house. The big cumbersome, but highly practical, receiver (I don't remember ever struggling to hear anyone, do you?) sat on top of its simple but fit-for-purpose box which housed the dial and all the inner workings.

Well, these teenagers had not seen one before and the task of making a call on it totally bamboozled them! Not only did they have to work out that each number needed to be patiently 'dialled' (I wonder if they ever wonder why they 'dial' a number?) but that the line had to be open before they began to dial. So they spent ages dialling in the number only to lift the receiver and look at it incredulously when it wasn't ringing anyone! Indeed, they had never heard the dial tone before.

I was reading recently an article (and I apologise now for I don't remember where I saw it) about the generation switch. No longer do younger generations look to their elders for wise guidance and as a source of learning, instead they "tut" and roll their eyes before showing grandma how to upload her photo to Facebook.

It's not just a divide between the very old and the very young. The speed of technological change makes those in their 20's seem 'old' to young teenagers if they dare mention a memory of going to a shop to buy a CD or waiting for their favourite film to come out on DVD.

The rapid developments in the technology of our everyday lives has accelerated the perceived gap between generations. The danger is that the superior knowledge in technology held by young people is assumed to apply beyond just digital devices to other aspects of life. The environment for instance, who oversaw the introduction of the convenience culture? Not the young people who've grown up in it!

That does not however mean there is no longer anything to learn from our elders.

As we grow older it is perfectly clear that our younger selves could have done with some of the knowledge we have, sometimes painfully, acquired over the years!How many young people, for instance, could benefit from a little perspective on life, only gained through experience?

We may have to help grandma get her profile picture on Facebook but listen to her when she talks to you about life and be prepared to share your own experiences with those younger, they will listen. Recently my 13 year old son sat with my 96 year old grandad, his great-grandad, for a candid talk about growing up in the 1920's and '30's and about going to war. Hands down that beats a history book anytime and how lucky is he to still be able to do that?!

Technology may be moving apace and it may not be everyones cup of tea but there is so much to learn from each other so let's keep the communication channels open both up and down the generations so we can continue to share and learn.

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