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Crossing the Digital Divide

Does technology have to deepen the generation gap?

Travel with me back in time to 2007. Where were you? Can you remember what kind of clothes you were wearing? Where were you working? What "big" thing was happening in your life at that time? 2007 was a great year for me—it's when I started my senior year of high school.

That 2007 Christmas before I graduated, my sister and I were over-the-moon excited because we asked for the best gift ever. We spent pretty much the entire fall heading into Christmas discussing this gift with our parents who were nice enough to listen. So when Christmas morning arrived, we were ready to tear into those boxes. My parents put identical boxes in front of us, and we looked at each other. This was the one.

You see, inside that box was the very first iPhone. It had released earlier that summer. Technology like that changed things.

Growing up in a different world

Have you ever thought about the movement of technology? The rapid growth of what we know and what we see as useful or even essential technology? In 2007, that iPhone was considered one of the greatest technological advancements of our time. It revolutionized the way we communicate. But if I gave you that phone now, (which I still have in a drawer, by the way) it seems primitive compared to what's on the market today.

My generation, the Millennials, were young adults, teens, tweens, and kids when the iPhone was released. (We are now those in our late teens to early thirties.) That means many of us had—or at the very least used—an iPhone before going to college. Before taking the SAT. Before going to high school, in some cases. And in the case of the very youngest Millennials, the iPhone existed even before they hit puberty. So what does that say?

It reminds me how innate this technology is for Millennials. It's not just a matter of preference. I don't just "prefer" to text or to keep notes on my phone and not on paper. I do it because that's the technology I had growing up.

Digital natives

To put this in perspective, let's think about the Internet in general. This year we celebrated the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web. (It feels weird to call it that.) More than likely, those of you older than the age of 30 remember its beginnings, or at the very least, you may remember using it for the first time. Most Millennials have no memory of that at all.

I cannot remember a time before we had a computer with an Internet connection at my house. And I certainly don't remember a time before we had one at school. When technology like that is part of your initial learning process, it becomes the natural way you process information and communicate. This idea is why Millennials are often referred to as "digital natives."

Not only is the technology we currently have an intuitive part of how I (and other Millennials) interact with the world, but new technology doesn't scare me. Recently, while in a meeting, someone was talking about a door knob that can sense your presence and open when you come near. "Why would I want to use that?" the older man asked. Immediately I thought, Why wouldn't you?

When you grow up with new technology coming at rapid speed as the norm, you learn to accept change and adapt at a quicker pace.

When you grow up with new technology coming at rapid speed as the norm, you learn to accept change and adapt at a quicker pace. But just as I naturally adapt to new technology, those who haven't grown up with it or aren't early adopters may not—and this is where a critical disconnect lies. Those who tend to see new technology as an exciting possibility think everyone should feel that way. Those who see new technology as something to question, think we should be cautious.

Bridging the generational tech-gap

So how can we bridge this generational tech-gap? It's all about perspective.

1. Learn from each other.

Millennials: Let's face it: Many teens and 20somethings, no matter the time in history, think we know it all. But the fact is we don't. I think it's easy for us to have this technology in the palms of our hands and think we can use it to answer all of life's questions. But just because we have an amazing degree of access to information via technology, that doesn't mean we can't learn from the people around us.

Non-Millennials: Don't be afraid to let Millennials teach you about technology. Millennials have grown up in a culture unlike any before. We're different, and we know it. All people want to feel valued, and you can show us that you value who we are and how we grew up by taking the time to let us teach you what we know. It's good to learn from each other.

2. Keep an open mind.

Millennials: The world we've grown up in is unique, yes. We question things differently. We have a different idea of what success looks like. We communicate differently. We tend to think that because we don't just look at things as black and white, we have an open mind. That may not be true. Don't just have an "open mind" by questioning everything those older than us say is right or wrong. Instead, keep an open mind by valuing how they were raised and seeking to understand the world they grew up in.

Non-Millennials: It can be easy to look at Millennials as kids who lack sufficient life experience and knowledge. But the same technology we've been talking about has given Millennials access to more information than you may have had at their age. Be open-minded and acknowledge that we may know more than you'd guess primarily because we're exposed to information constantly.

3. Don't judge.

Millennials: This is simple: Don't judge and dismiss people just because they don't want to (or don't know how to) use the same technology you use. Just because we communicate using a different medium doesn't mean they aren't trying to connect with us. Be more flexible and accepting.

Non-Millennials: Don't assume just because Millennials seem to be connected through technology 24/7 that we have a problem. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard people say that Millennials (and even younger generations) don't know how to build real relationships. We do know how—it just looks different than how other generations may build relationships. That doesn't make it wrong.

Beautiful differences

The most beautiful thing about life is that we are all different! No two people are the same. Those differences span through all generations and all levels of technology. Whether we're digital-native Millennials or decades older, we can still connect with each other. We need each other, and technology doesn't have to divide us.

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Social media lover. Dreamer. Netflix binge-watcher. Family obsessed. Faith and fate believer. Aimee Cottle lives out her passion for all-things-marketing as the Online Engagement Strategist at Fishhook, a communications and creative services firm with a heart for churches.

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Communication; Conflict resolution; Connecting; Conversation; Culture; Differences; Disagreement; Generations
Today's Christian Woman, April Week 5, 2014
Posted April 30, 2014

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