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Understanding Generation Z: The Facebook Generation

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If you’re above a certain age, you might have noticed how difficult it is to communicate with the younger generation today. It’s not just you; the youngsters in Generation Z do communicate differently, and it’s partly due to the technology and social networks they use. In this article, Facebook for Grown-Ups author Michael Miller discusses what makes the Facebook generation different, and how we can break through the barriers.
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Generation Z is today’s upcoming generation. The children of Generation X parents, these kids are much different from preceding generations—they’re more easily distracted, more self-centered, unaccustomed to being told “no,” and don’t like confrontation. They’re also immersed in technology; they haven’t known a day where the Internet hasn’t existed. I like to call them the Facebook generation.

But just because Generation Z kids were raised in a high-tech environment doesn’t mean they’re particularly tech-savvy—or that they use technology the same way that previous generations do. For example, they don’t use email (it’s too slow), don’t like figuring out how traditional software applications work (who has the time?), don’t watch scheduled TV (Internet video feeds their on-demand culture), are more likely to access the Internet from their phones than from a computer (the phone is their constant companion), and spend more time using Facebook than they do Microsoft Office (it’s a social media world). They’re not like us older folks at all.

How, then, do you reach Generation Z? It’s not as easy as you’d think.

The Genesis of a Generation

Every generation thinks succeeding generations are “different”—and they are. That’s because every generation has its own unique set of influences.

Take the Baby Boom generation, those folks born between 1945 and 1965 or so. This generation grew up during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s in unprecedented prosperity, and to unprecedented change. That change was political, social, and technological. Boomers grew up during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war; they witnessed assassinations of two Kennedys and a King; they listened to Elvis, the Beatles, and Motown. Technology-wise, the Baby Boom generation was there for the birth of color television, the advent of popular jet travel, and the landing of a man on the moon.

The next generation, Generation X, lived through a different set of circumstances. These folks, born between 1965 and 1980 or so, inherited the prosperity of the previous generation but without all the hard work that went into it. Generation X grew up during the 1980s and early 1990s in a less optimistic world, living through Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the Challenger disaster, the AIDS epidemic, and the first Iraq war. Its leaders were less inspiring and its music more derivative (new wave, hip hop, and grunge). But Gen X’ers did experience several technological revolutions, witnessing the birth of video games, personal computers, and cable television. (Yes, this was the MTV generation.)

Generation Y followed. Born between 1980 and the mid-1990s, these so-called Millennials were thrown into a world of turmoil. Most of these folks were in their early teens when they experienced the 9/11 terrorist attacks; they then lived through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. But they did have technology, in the form of high definition television, the iPod, and, most important, the Internet.

Then we come to Generation Z. These are kids who are now in high school and college. They’ve never known a world without broadband Internet and on-demand video. To them, everything has always been instantly accessible; they’ve grown up communicating electronically. Equally important, they’re the first generation to live in a world that promises them less than what their parents had. When they graduate, their job prospects will be slim.

As you can see, there are very real differences between each of these generations. We shouldn’t expect succeeding generations to see things the same way we do, or to communicate similarly.

Which leads us to the issue at hand—understanding the Facebook generation.

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