I wrote this in response to my friend Mark Schaefer. He writes a pithy and practical marketing blogg which fouces on the us eof social media and has a large international following. In Mark’s last article, he posted a provocative question: Is social media re-wiring a generation?
The answer of course, is yes. Not only is it re-wiring the current generation of young adults, it is re-wiring the rest of us as well.
Technology has always done so. Although we’re accustomed to them now, the telephone, television, and automobile each created radical changes in society. Mark wrote of a time when our primary neural development came through “intense socialization with family members and friends, physical activity and interacting with nature in some way,” yet all of these technologies also eroded the same patterns of socialization, and were lamented (for good reason) by the “older generation” of their times.
Implications for management
Again, these tendencies didn’t start with the latest wave of innovation. But the effects do seem to be sinking deeper. In my work with young engineers I find they are consistently bored, have a low tolerance for authority figures (like many adults but with even less perspective they quickly conclude that the problem is that “the boss is an idiot”), will simply “drop out of the game” without weighing the long term consequences, and will try to communicate electronically especially if there is any discomfort or conflict involved.
The “internal” solution
The boss who has young hires and expects them to function independently is fooling him or herself (and giving in to their own ADD tendencies). These people need mentoring in how to become adults, just as the generation preceding them needed mentoring (that would be us), and even more so.
Finally, there are always benefits from new technologies. My eldest son as a young teen went through a period where he very rarely opened up (nothing new there, right?) until he and I started texting each other. Then there was a flood of communication, which opened the door for even better “in person” communication.
So the key is not to try to kill the new technology, and the behavioral impact. That is a fool’s errand. They key is to continue to do what humans must do, and often don’t do enough of at work, which is to relate in person to the people that are important to them.