05 August 2006

Gen Y and why we should learn from them

A friend of mine was narrating a story about an old (i.e. aged 71) client of his who was petrified of moving to a new place. It was not the city (Pune) he was moving to, nor the flat he was moving into (a rather spacious apartment compared to his smaller Mumbai dwelling) that worried him, but the anticipation of living a lonely life. He had asked my friend, almost in horror, “But Sunil, at my age, will I be able to make new friends?”

When it comes to baby boomers like Sunil’s client, and somewhat middle-aged Gen X people like me (ok, I admit, I’m a borderline case), moving to a new place always carries with it the worry of not being able to make new friends and facing up to a lonely life. The thing is, old fogies like us aren’t quite spirited enough to go out and make friends. Nor are we quick enough – nor evolved enough – to take advantage of social networks that we can build right from home… through the Internet.

You see, old habits die hard. We’re too engrossed with reading newspapers, watching TV, talking over the telephone, or visiting friends and family to realise that, now, there are new socially-accepted – and easier – ways of making friends through online social networks. Online social networks are abuzz with millions of users, from all over the world, making friends and building communities of like-minded people. However, it’s the 16-24 years age group – the proverbial Gen Y – that’s having all the fun. If you stretch it a bit, you'll get some 25-30 year olds as well. But the rest of us are left out of the picture.

What’s common with this Gen Y group is that ‘old’ habits of reading newspapers and magazines, or watching TV, are no longer as appealing to them as they are to us. It’s not that Gen Y people don’t read newspapers or watch TV, it’s just that these media channels don’t hold their attention for long. These old-world media channels lack interactivity – the one thing that most of us are looking for. Gen Y seems to have found it in online social networking, leaving us to our lonely lives.

What Gen Y-ers do on these social networks is what most of us are yearning for. They hang out with friends, talking about music, movies, books (well, maybe not that much), shopping, events, parties, dating and sex. Exchanging news and ideas, constantly interacting. And, as registration to these online social networks is free, Gen Y-ers eagerly create their personal profiles, telling their personal stories (not all of it is truthful, mind you) to groups of friends just like them. Building their own communities.

Moreover, since online social networks allow a veil of anonymity to its users, even the shyest Gen Y-er with the poorest interpersonal skills is becoming a prolific networker… making friends almost everyday. Now, isn’t there something we can learn from them?

No comments: