Unlike the millennials, who love to broadcast every detail of their daily lives through Facebook and Twitter, the iGen prefers personal and immediate platforms such as Snapchat, according to the Centre for Generational Kinetics in Austin, Texas.
The social network you choose to adopt marks a distinct generational divide, according to the co-founder and chief strategy officer of the Centre for Generational Kinetics, Jason Dorsey. He identifies technology use as a key marker of a generation’s identity rather than the physical time and place that once defined a generational cohort.
Boomers still prefer to be face to face, while Generation Xers love their phones and email for communication. Millennials tend to head for social media networks, while Generation Zers prefer to instant message and leave no paper trail – to be there and gone.
For the iGen, getting a smartphone should happen at 13 (millennials and older generations identify 18 as the most appropriate age) and there are no qualms about giving payment details through an app, although there is distrust about paying online on a standard PC. Generation Z is the first generation to truly embrace going mobile, whilst millennials are more attracted to multiplatform technology.
There are positives and negatives to a life lived entirely online. Social media has a well-documented dark side, with 43% of young people reporting having been bullied and daily stories of trolling and sexist attacks, particularly targeted at young girls. The influence of social media also has its positives, creating a generation of young people who are connected to the wider world, empowered and fully networked.
This connected generation is shaping and driving social media, developing – in Dorsey’s words – into powerful visual communicators. This connectivity does not always mean the iGen is well informed, however, as misinformation fed by soundbite, attention grabbing, clickbait headlines can rapidly and powerfully take hold. Dorsey insists, however, that Gen Z is media literate in a positive way.
Gen Z is leveraging this media literacy to become an influencer on its own culture, attaining celebrity in a way that was not available to its millennial or Gen X peers. Victor Pineiro, senior vice-president of social media at US digital agency Big Spaceship, says Gen Z has pulled down the wall between being influenced by and influencing the culture around it, having grown up to believe that social media celebrity is absolutely attainable. Pineiro believes that it is the drive to be creative and to develop its own innovative content that truly distinguishes Gen Z from other cohorts.
Does the differing approach to technology of the post-1996 cohort lead to communication difficulties with older generations? Dorsey says his research showed that each cohort understood its default generational behaviours, but it pays to look at the way in which other generations naturally communicate and try to put yourself in their shoes.
When it comes to employment issues, such as when a Gen Z employee has a baby boomer boss, Dorsey says that you get the best of what both groups have to offer when there is compromise.
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