Generation Z (AKA 'Net Generation', 'Generation I', 'Generation 9/11', and the 'Internet Generation') is generally defined as the group of people born in the 1990's and early 2000's, more specifically anyone born after the fall of the Soviet Union [cite]. This generation's markers consist of the complete reliance on social media and electronics, the focus on individuality, and the shared experience of historical events such as the Gulf War, 9/11, and the financial crises of the late 2000's [how does this specific aspect change the way we talk? Bring in ‘Bowling for Columbine’ quote about the way tragedy changes rhetoric…video?] . My interest has increased with the rising debate about communication techniques used by my generation, and how they will affect the future of our entire culture. Are we degrading the art of communication? Or are we progressing towards positive advances? How will business and education procedures change? All of these questions and my curiosity in this topic in general, arose from a quote from the novel Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen (which I consequently read on my Kindle E-Reader) “When will people learn just because you can make something doesn’t mean you should?” (Gruen pg.102)
As a communication studies major, we are constantly looking at the development of modes of communication [look for study to link to]; which are rapidly moving away from verbally spoken and formally written word. We learn of new tools every day in the field, and attempt to study their impact on the population. The phenomenon of social media such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter has created a generation of incredibly exposed teenagers and young adults. These sites and others like them have produced both negative and positive outcomes on individuals and society as a whole, but does one outweigh the other? Just how far will we go to gain information as quickly as possible? Are we overlooking the loss with all of this gain? Along this path of progression, we are forgetting fundamental skills that have previously defined our society. The question is; do we need them?
In pursuit of research on this subject, I came across a woman named Penelope Trunk. Trunk is the CEO of the “career management tool for next-generation professionals [link to bio page to show credibility]” company Brazen Careerist. She is the author of the bestselling book Brazen Careerist: The new rules for success and she currently owns the most visited career blog on the internet. It was on this blog that I found many entries relating to the very subject I am currently investigating: generational differences. I found several articles of particular interest. The first post I found, and the one that sparked my continued searching through Trunk’s work, was “What Generation Z will be like at work [link]”. This article was the first piece I found that coined “Generation Z”, although I have since found many other sources that I will discuss later. Throughout this piece, Trunk uses her generational thinking studies background (which she references in another post) to analyze the way our generation will behave once it is our turn to rule the working world. She brings to the table four main points: “Generation Z will not be team players”, “Generation Z will be more self-directed”, “Generation Z will process information at lightning speed”, and “Generation Z will be smarter”. In actuality, all of the appointed attributes tie into the same concepts.
According to Trunk, our generation is extremely reliant on technology. This is a direct result of our being the first generation to be born in a society already completely immersed in the internet world. Yes, I remember when our computer was almost the size of a desk, but it was still a home computer. My sisters on the other hand, being born in 1983; remember when we obtained our first Mac (complete with the awesome original label). The fact that we have never had to live without relatively instant access to information has significantly changed the way we process it. Before computers and the World Wide Web, in order to find out about something you had to search for it; and I don’t mean type your question into a search bar that will within seconds, return to you more information than you could ever cognize. These days, the print encyclopedias that our parents and older siblings used are a thing of the past. No more buying collections of whole alphabets so you could learn about things that started with more than one letter (I was particularly fond of our seemingly antique encyclopedia when I was little, but we only had ‘T’. I know more about Toucans than anyone should). Now you can simply ‘Google’ anything from Toucans (not that I need to), to Foreign Wars, and soak up the various forms of media information that are presented right at your fingertips. This new way of learning has created a generation of information-seeking sponges. We can surf the web on various “stumbling sites” such as www.Stumbleupon.com, and access a wide variety of facts, figures, pictures, and videos in virtually any subject. According to Trunk our generation soaks it all up; and quickly at that. In her article she references a report by fifteen-year-old Morgan Stanley intern Matthew Robson, about the way our generation spends our always media-related time [link]. This report is an eye-opening view to the priorities we value. It shows the extreme amount of time spent on the internet and our cell phones specifically, which draws back to the changing line of communication. We are in constant contact, but how much of it is actual contact?
Text messaging has become one of the largest offenders to communication. The “short messaging system” forces the sender to communicate their expressions in 160 characters or less, which would be fine if you were making a grocery list reminder, but teens use texting for much more than that. Texting is becoming increasingly more popular to adults and teens alike, but the difference is adults remember what it was like not to have it. Teens have now become so accustomed to text messaging, that they are losing vital interpersonal communication and writing skills. Psychologist Cecilia Holguin of the University Counseling Center at the University of Texas at El Paso is quoted in an online Boarderzine article Negative Aspects of Text Messaging [link] “It does seem people are more comfortable text messaging rather than actually talking with another human. There is no awkwardness or vocal response involved when texting. Young people could virtually say anything through texts and don’t have to commit to engaging into the effects through a vocal conversation.” (Holguin qtd. in Negative Aspects of Text Messaging)