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The Generations, Cadence, and Dropping Out

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This is simply an observation.  It’s the observation that at some point, in the world of society, culture, innovation, technology, and the daily “taken for granted” reality of how people operate or conduct themselves in the world, some people “fall off the map”.  And, by this I mean that their recognition is diminished – even when they are duly fully present in their physical existence.

Being not recognized means that you slide into a state of a sort of personal irrelevancy as judged by new product development, communication channels, marketing messages, and common ways of working, thinking, and communicating that operate on a daily basis.  Perhaps you even become irrelevant to your (former) close friends.  Ed Yourdon has something to say about this and is quoted later in this posting.

Why do some people “drop out”?  That it is the case is true – the research and statistics are in.  But why is it the case?  What is the cause?

The Cadence of Society, Culture, and Life

Aren’t we all “on the same page”?  We live day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.  There is a cadence to the thing.  Those who have been living  the longest should be the most adept at the cadence.  Why do some people fall off the cadence?  At what point do you say that the game, the race, or the walk is over?  At what time do you “drop out”?  More importantly, why do you drop out?  Once you drop out and lose the cadence of the society or culture in which you are embedded and must live then you become – in societal terms – irrelevant.  The rest will move on and leave you behind.

Why does technology leave some people behind?  And why is this related to age?

In a recent PEW report the statistics for internet usage by age was published.

As one expected, older people are the less likely they are to use the Internet.  Why?

Look at the statistics and think about this

People who created the personal computer revolution in the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s  are now in their mid 50’s.  These are the folks at the top edge of the Younger Boomers category.  Skip ahead 20 years to those now at age about 75 – the G.I. Generation.  When kids in their  20’s were starting the computer revolution the G.I. generation was in their mid 40’s.  Why didn’t those in their 40’s adopt the technology of the kids in their 20’s?  Does a 20 year age difference make all the difference in the world?  Is 20 years about one “click” when generations do not understand each other or understand the products or innovations that a generation produces? 

So, for people reading this posting who are now in their mid 40’s, do you understand the Millennial’s now in their 20’s and what they are doing?  Do you understand the Millennial’s obsession with Facebook, Twitter, Social Networking, Global Collaboration, iPads, iPhones, and all that goes with it?  Or are you one “click” away (20 years) to the point where much of this not comprehensible?  This is the position of the G.I. Generation to the Younger Boomers.  By the statistics, the G.I. Generation has mostly opted out of the Internet.  For those age 40 reading this now, what portions of mainstream society have you quit the race?  Is about 40 years of age the time you lose the cadence of the emerging society and culture and drop out?

You can read the entire PEW report at the link in the Resources section at the bottom of this posting.

Ed Yourdon on leaving old friends behind who have dropped out

This phenomenon of the older generation “falling off the map” was made explicit by Ed Yourdon (now age 66) in a blog posting.  Yourdon, born in 1944, is part of the Silent Generation as categorized by PEW.  But, not silent at all in writing about this phenomenon of people dropping out of technology – especially his friends in his same age group.

Ed Yourdon writes:

And so it is today with social networks. It doesn’t matter which ones you belong to; the point is that, to increasing degree over the next few years, if you adamantly and noisily refuse to participate in any of them, an entire generation of people who do use these networks will conclude: you’re irrelevant.

They won’t bother trying to convince you or persuade you; they won’t object, protest, march, or complain loudly. They’ll simply ignore you. It’s okay with them — and if it’s okay with you, then everyone is happy. But if you wonder why fewer and fewer people are paying attention to you, there’s a reason …

I began to notice this a few weeks ago when I started sending out Dopplr invitations to friends and business colleagues — mostly of my own middle-aged generation — whom I would enjoy meeting up with while on out-of-town trips. Thus far, roughly one-third of the people I’ve invited to join Dopplr (which, of course, is free) have accepted; but two-thirds have simply ignored the invitation.

One of them said to me, in person, “I don’t know what this is, and I don’t know why I would want to use such a service — and besides, it looks too complicated.” To which my response is simply a shrug: you’ve just become irrelevant.

As a result, I find myself slowly building a new network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances … and slowly leaving behind a much larger network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances I’ve built up over the past 40 years of my adult life.

It’s not that I dislike any of my old friends and colleagues … but it’s almost as if they’ve consciously chosen not to have an email address, not to have a cell phone, and not to have a fax number. Hey, that’s fine; Western Union and the Pony Express are out of business, but if I have to write a snail-mail letter to communicate with my old friends, I guess I can do it once or twice a year. But in the meantime, there’s a younger generation that’s learning how to communicate, collaborate, share ideas, and keep track of each other’s travel plans, and day-to-day activities through a variety of new networks.

Ed Yourdon still has the cadence.  Read his Enterprise 2.0 presentation at the link in the Resources section of this posting.

Just Not Interested?  Who are these people?

As a final observation based on the PEW report… Who are these people who are “Just not interested” in the Internet?


The PEW Report – Generations 2010

Ed Yourdon – Enterprise 2.0


Written by frrl

January 8, 2011 at 7:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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