Sarah Perez recently wrote a fantastic article on Why Gen Y Is Going to Change the Web. She delves into the highlights of the generational shift in the overall status quo as to how things are done, how we will impact not only the web, but also the workplace, how marketing gets done and more. It’s an excellent piece that everyone should read if you haven’t already.
While I wholeheartedly support the article, it moved me to want to explore who is pushing the web today. Unfortunately, that push isn’t being made by Generation Y. In fact, we’re sorely lagging behind early adopters (generations before us) when it comes to pushing new web services to the forefront of the web.
Sarah noted to me that:
Early adopters are a slice of the web that progresses it forward – in fact, they are a slice of the population that pushes *anything* forward. Early adopters of hybrid cars, color TVs, microwave ovens – some group is always trying out certain things first. It’s a given. Gen Y is a completely different slice of web users, whose behaviors can be recorded and contrasted with X, Boomers, etc. but not other cross sections – like types of users for example.
Gen Y Are Types of Users
Generation Y are the types of users that can help make new technologies more mainstream. One can even argue that to some extent, we make up the majority of mainstream. We’re the more narcissistic users. We’re the supposedly savvy users of the web. Yet, we’re also the ones who have yet to learn how to properly and effectively user new technologies. We’re the ones that depend on Wikipedia for our homework, yet do not know how to effectively use Google Scholar to our advantage. We have a million resources at our fingertips. We’re the ones that will pick one or two and not bother to explore the others. We just might be the laziest web users of all time.
Latest Gadgets Versus Latest Technologies
Generation Y is normally well informed of the latest gadgets. We switch cellphones every chance we get. We’re switching from PC’s to Linux and Macbooks. We have GPS in our cars and upgrade our stereo systems about as much as we change clothes. However, when it comes to technologies, most of us are at a loss.
Ask us about IMAP and we’ll give you the most confused look. Throw out a music codec outside of MP3 such as OGG Vorbis, or ask Gen Y what LAME is. Can you speak in plain English please? DataPortability, OpenID, OAuth, APML? RSS, OMPL? We’ll probably ask if that has anything to do with HTML. These are technologies that early adopters are pushing for our future on the web and we don’t know a damn thing about any of them.
It seems the perpetration of Generation Y being up on the latest technologies is a bit skewed. We’re more up on the latest gadgets (hardware). The technologies (software) that power the gadgets that we use, we honestly have no clue about them. While we may also be savvy at using these gadgets, ask any of us to troubleshoot it and that savvy facade will crumble worse than cake. Just because we’re on Facebook and Myspace doesn’t mean why know what the hell we’re doing.
Social Media, Social Networks, and The Social Web
Don’t ask any of us what these things mean. Don’t tell us that a social network is part of social media which is part of the social web. We most likely don’t even care, but we should! The social web is the wave that we’ll be riding in the future. We know brands like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo. However, we have no clue about Google’s OpenSocial. Hell, I barely have a clue to what exactly it’s supposed to be. We know about Youtube, but not Veoh, Vimeo, or Qik. Twitter? Barely a blip on our radar and I do mean barely! Everything we know about the Social Web, was over for early adopters in 2007, with the exception of Facebook. We can definitely claim that.
Our future is already here and wholeheartedly involves the use of these services and applications. Part of our ignorance could be due to that fact that we only see what’s popular, when it hits mainstream. We hop from network to network based on the recommendation of our friends. To some extent, early adopters do the exact same. However, while they’re bouncing from the latest to the next potential hit, Generation Y ping-pongs back and forth between a bubble of networks, which we rarely venture outside of.
Why Generation Y Is Lagging Behind
Laziness and pride put us behind more than anything else (except possibly games and sleep). If you look at the age of the early adopter crowd you’ll see that people like Scoble, Stowe Boyd, Dave Winer, Guy Kawasaki are not “young bucks”. Hell, get off the usual A-list train for a second. Those who are also pushing Friendfeed, Twitter, various RSS Readers, and social aggregators are over the age of 35 too.
I’m 20. My mom is 40. My dad is…over 40. The aforementioned folks that are old enough to be my parents. Their old enough to be my friend’s parents. Would you really want to learn about the web from your parents, who didn’t even grow up with the internet? What the hell do they know? That’s our mentality. That’s our pride. In our heads, the internet is our birthright. If my mom tries to show me anything on the internet you can bet your bottom dollar that I probably won’t listen. What does she know? If we’re taking the early adopter crowd into perspective, then apparently a lot more than I do!
On the other hand, future technologies and services are extremely complicated, time consuming, and not always productive. We’re way too lazy to want organize these things ourselves. We’re glad you guys are taking the time to do it because it would take us a lot longer to get it done. There’s so much to learn and explore. Yet, we just want whatever’s going to get things done the quickest. We don’t even mind if it’s dirty, as long as it’s done!
Stop The Perpetration
There’s way too much hype being placed on Generation Y. Sure we’re savvy, but we’re also clueless and most of us don’t care to do the research. We’re waiting for these things to come to us while early adopters are going to them. We’re weren’t the first on the web, though we pretend to be. Who invented the internet? Puh-leeze! That’s a pop quiz that this generational “wave” would drown in.
Since we feel that the internet was our birthright, I think we should start investing the time to learn the both the history and the future of it. We need to set aside our pride, clean up our rooms, and get just as involved on the web as we are in politics, economics, and the environment. One thing is definitely clear to me: Generation Y has no clue about the future of the web and the perpetration that we do needs to stop.