Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Digital “Generational divide”

Musings on how technology divides the generations, and Facebook’s recent privacy pangs.

Issues on the technology-lifestyle interface frequently get polarized along generational lines. The younger generation tends to adopt new technologies for lifestyle use very quickly. And the older generation almost always disapproves, despairing that the younger generation is ruining itself in the use of these technologies. (an interesting blog entry points out how Facebook privacy is a battleground between generations).

This “generational divide” applies to almost any technology that has lifestyle uses – digital music, video games, social web,…Part of the reason for this divide is that the younger generation tends to take to new technologies like a fish to water and find all kinds of innovative uses for them, while the older generation is much more circumspect. The resulting differential speed of adoption widens the “generation gap” that has existed for decades.

I also believe this differential adoption speed applies to E-readers – they will never really get traction with the generation that’s currently in adulthood, but will be absorbed avidly by the generation that’s now in it’s teens. Whether this worsens the generational divide remains to be seen.

Coming back to Facebook’s recent privacy shenanigans, I’m not sure whether they are a misfortune or a boon for that company. They have certainly brought Facebook lots of free publicity – a search on Google News for the keywords ‘Facebook privacy’ throws up 5,000 news articles in the past day alone ! So does Facebook believe, as P. T. Barnum is reputed to have said, that "Any publicity is good publicity"? Whatever the answer to that question, one thing's certain: Surely the free publicity Facebook is getting is worth more mindshare than a truckload of dollars can buy.