Many authors and commentators have been talking about the notion of generations in terms of age cohorts – baby boomers, generation X, generation Y, etc. For example, Mark McCrindle is a well known Australian researcher who has written extensively on this topic.
But I am not convinced that analysing people simply on the basis of their date of birth is particularly relevant. Logic indicates that within each age cohort is a bell curve that can describe the members in terms of all the psychographic and other analytical approaches that we’ve used in marketing for generations. Thus each age cohort will have its share of early adopters or laggards with regards to change and new product adoption.
In both my work and personal life I am seeing the development of a different kind of generation gap, and it is not one that is age based. Rather it is about the individual’s relationship to technology and their willingness or desire to become and to remain connected.
This phenomenon is what I tend to call the true digital divide. There is a continuum of connectedness. Where we see some people, from any of the age cohorts, who are embracing hyperconnectivity, and who feel strange when disconnected from the hive mind of their extended social networks. And we also see others who do not even want to use email or a mobile phone. Then there are people at any stage between these two extremes.
Thus we are seeing people who love being connected via their mobile phones and social networks like Twitter or Facebook from all age groups. We are also seeing young people rejecting technology. It’s not all about age, it’s about your relationship to technology, to privacy and openness, and to connections.
The real generation gap is not about age any more!
For more info check out Mark McCrindle’s report (opens pdf)