Today I had lunch with an Episcopalian Priest, a Politian and a Farmer (no this is not the beginning of a very bad joke) and the topic of conversation turned to "Millennials".
Millennials are the demographic group of young people born between the years of 1980 and 2000, give or take a year or two. They are marrying (or not) and raising our next generation. They are trying to pay off student loans, trying to move out of mom and dad's basement and trying to find their life's work.
Much research and much money is being spent on figuring out exactly what makes them tick. Everything from their work habits and work ethic, their concept of personal relationships, how they communicate, their spending habits and their religious and personal preferences is being closely studied. THEY are the next generation to take this country into the future. They are an interesting group to watch. Sociologists and marketing companies love them!
Anyway, back to the lunch conversation....
Despite all the promise of a bright future these folks have due to economic and educational opportunities, equal rights, better health care, etc., all three of my table mates concurred regarding one major issue....these young adults are severely handicapped by technology.
WHAT? They are the techno-gurus! They can take any gadget and make it do a multitude of tasks. They have the world and all its information and culture and creativity at their fingertips. Why would my friends, from very diverse backgrounds, all think this group of young people are handicapped by technology?
My friends believe, in virtually every aspect of Millennials' lives, technology has replaced good old fashioned communication so necessary to sustaining relationships. They sit at dinner texting each other across the table. They text in movies, in church, in school, in the workplace and in bed.
They don't make eye contact. They are mesmerized by fantasy...fantasy movies and Fantasy Football. They are captivated by video games. They live on social media. They have created a "reality" based on technology that is not sustainable in the true reality of a global social or economic setting. They depend on a keyboard to convey their emotions and their ideas. It's kind of Orwellian when you think about it.
Those of us who are managing this group of folks in the workplace are being coached on how to adjust to their reality instead of this group being coached on how to fit into the reality of the global economy and workplace. It is frustrating and frightening.
To be fair, some of their characteristics are incredibly noble and altruistic....they care about the poor and the disadvantaged, they care about their personal time, they care about the environment, they care about people....they just can't communicate with them.
This column from app.com gives a great overview of how things have changed. If you have a millennial in your life, pass it on. Open the dialogue. Start a conversation. Take the first step in drawing them back from the technology cliff. They deserve to have a chance to experience the life we had.