by Jodie Hansen

    Tech-Talk: Finding a Common Ground Between Generations

    “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” —James Cash Penney

    Most Millennials would agree they could not live without technology. We’ve grown accustomed to constantly evolving technology that allows us to connect with people and expand our networks from local to global with little effort. Being “connected” is so essential to our daily routines that it would likely feel as though we were missing a limb if we were without a phone, tablet, or computer, and couldn’t send a text or post a photo on some sort of social media outlet.

    Growing up with new gadgets popping up in the market conditioned us to adapt to technological changes. As years passed and technology improved, the design of these products became so intuitive that Millennials don’t even think twice about how to use them. The speed at which these devices allow us to communicate has changed the way we interact with each other. Sometimes, it almost sounds as if we’ve created our own language, with abbreviations and acronyms like “LOL” (laugh out loud), “BRB” (be right back), or even “SYOS” (see you on Saturday). Our vocabulary and the way we deliver our words are like a big inside joke that everybody in our generation is in on. This is especially evident in the popularity of “memes.” These are popular images, viral videos, or even pieces of text that are so prevalent on social media that everyone in our generation knows about it.

    In formal situations like school, student clubs, or work, we still use proper English. In everyday conversation, however, it’s evident the way we talk to each other is very informal with our little conventions to format, to spell, and use grammar. Run-on sentences, misspelled words, or even keyboard-smashes (e.g., aoijfaoiejw) can convey as much emotion and meaning as a well-formed sentence would. Sometimes, it can be more expressive and faster.

    Example: OMG DID U C JGL IN THE MOVIE??!! He was so perfect aoeijfaej im gonna cry D:

    Translation: Oh my goodness, did you see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s amazing performance in that film? His acting was fantastic, and it was so moving it brought a tear to my eye.

    This does not mean that there are no rules for behavior and for showing respect. People still understand what is appropriate to say to someone else. (Although YouTube comments may not be the best place to see good examples of that.) In outlets like Facebook and Twitter, where most users are not anonymous, people are more accountable for what they say and take the same level of caution with what they post publically as they would in real life.

    Although our generation may interact less formally than older generations do, we still circumstantially treat people with the same level of respect. There is a mutual understanding among our generation that has been established through years of experience with social media, instant messaging, and cell phone usage as early as elementary school.

    Fun Fact: A man named Wayne Pearson invented LOL in Calgary in the mid-80s.

    Boomers: What Isn’t Being Said

    Technology’s influence on communication in the past quarter century has caused a slight disconnect between Millennials and older generations; the reason is that technology has advanced rapidly during our maturing years, and, as a result, we frequently use it as our primary means of communication.

    The way technology is used to communicate can be hard to keep pace with as new products are released on a timeline that gets shorter with every technological innovation. If we take a quick look into the past twenty years, it’s really interesting to see how technology in society has progressed.


    • 1990 – .com era
    • 1998 – Google
    • 1998 – iMac / Windows 98
    • 2001 – iPod
    • 2003 – iTunes
    • 2005 – YouTube
    • 2007 – iPhone

    Millennials see these advancements as an opportunity to enhance the way they connect with each other—it’s not only convenient, but we can keep in touch with our network, anywhere, at anytime. However, Boomers seem to have a different outlook on the growth of technology—it seems as though they feel that these new gadgets are overly complicated, with too many functions and should be simplified.

    The problem doesn’t lie with the technology alone, but with the different mentalities the two generations have when using technology to communicate. Michael Rogers discusses this in his study of Boomers and Technology: An Extended Conversation. Boomers were in their teens to early 30s when the first Apple computers and IBM’s personal computer appeared. In the early ’90s, technology became streamlined to a point where it could be purchased inexpensively and in a number of capacities. It was used to make everyday activities more efficient rather than as a form of functional entertainment like it is today. It seems as though Boomers had a choice of whether they wanted to use technology to communicate on a daily basis, or make do without it. This could be the greatest contributor to their lack of adoption: Millennials do not have this option. It could be that Boomers didn’t expect technology-based communication to grow at the rate it did, not only in a professional sense, but in their personal lives as well. Now that Boomers are postponing their retirement dates and opting for more time in the workforce, they are obliged to adhere to communication demands set by younger generations. Shorter timeframes on deadlines and unspoken expectations between coworkers will make it harder for Boomers to contribute at the same level as younger generations, by no fault of their own. Boomers set the bar high, and Millennials ran with it. Millennials work at a speed that is at times unfathomable to Boomers. This can be attributed to Millennials expectations on the speed that they receive information, thanks in large part to search engines like Google and Wikipedia. Google’s competitive advantage is getting searchers the most valuable information in the shortest amount of time. It seems as though Millennials identify with this and have adopted it into the way they live and interact professionally.

    A Common Ground

    When you look at the younger and older generations in the workplace, there isn’t much difference in the types of technology used to communicate. It’s just as common to see a senior executive on an iPad, as it is to see a summer student with one. That being said, there’s a good chance the summer student is watching cat videos or the recent viral craze “Harlem Shake” on YouTube, while the executive is reading various articles on rising house prices and updates on Keystone XL. Nonetheless, the technology is the same. The only difference lies in the communication gap between generations. If the cat-watching summer student were to send an email to that senior executive, he would analyze every single word before pressing the send button, and ask himself questions like “Do I sound a bit pushy here?” or “How many exclamation points is too many exclamation points?” The executive would likely respond with a simple “Thanks” or “Okay,” leaving the student wondering if he came off too strong. Millennials feel the need to tie emotion into their communication through technology, while older generations simply use technology to communicate from a functional standpoint.

    Like most problems, the solution comes from a more balanced approach. Research shows that both Boomers and Millennials use their work to contribute to society. The solution lies in opening up the flow of communication in a way that works for both parties. Millennials work well in groups and look to their peers for approval and inspiration. They use technology to collaborate on action items to ensure they come to the best possible solutions. Boomers may see this as a lack of work ethic, but this is another example of technology being used to increase efficiencies. The time being saved by using collaborative technologies can be put towards other projects needing attention. Here in lies the solution: Boomers perspective on technology use by Millennials in the workplace must be optimistic, and Millennials need to use it for productive purposes, rather than as a distraction from work. This will create a mutual respect between generations and breakdown communication barriers, resulting in a more positive work environment for everyone.


    Lohr, Steve. “What Do Baby Boomers Want from Technology?New York Times. December 7, 2009.

    Jodie Hansen

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