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From the author of All About Generation Z

All About Generation Z

To those of us in previous generations, the youngsters in Generation Z seem a world apart. There’s some truth in that.

What do we know about Generation Z? Compared to previous generations, these kids are more individualistic, lack interpersonal skills, are poor listeners, and don’t take suggestions well. They’ve been brought up in a more isolationist culture, in part because of the increased fear levels brought upon by the 9/11 attacks, and in part because of the increased use of electronic communications technology. They’re more comfortable communicating online than they are face-to-face.

Speaking of technology, this is a highly connected generation. They’re used to entertainment and information on demand, and don’t like waiting for anything. They’re also highly mobile, and tend to view their cell phones as extensions of their physical bodies.

And here’s the thing you might not know. Unlike their older siblings, the members of Generation Z don’t use email; they also don’t blog and don’t tweet, to speak of. They communicate primarily via texting, and the number-one application they use is Facebook—not Microsoft Office.

In fact, this generation simply isn’t as fluent with traditional software applications as previous generations were. Despite having grown up in a technological world, they’re actually less tech-savvy than previous generations. They aren’t interested in how technology works; they view technology not as a modern marvel, but as an appliance.

That means that even basic software operations, like using Microsoft Word style sheets or Excel macros, are well beyond what these kids can do. They’re simply not interested in this stuff, and therefore haven’t learned it. Don’t assume they know what you do, technology-wise, or even care about it.

You see, unlike previous generations, who had to figure out newly-minted technology on the go, Generation Z inherited the technology fully grown. The comparison is to the early days of the automobile, where to drive a car you also had to be able to repair it, change the oil, and so forth. As time went by, however, automobiles got easier to use and broke down less often, so that today all you need to know is where to insert the key.

It’s the same thing with technology. We older folks had to learn how computer hardware and software worked just to keep them working; there were a lot of “secret” commands and keyboard shortcuts and stuff that were necessary to know. Today, however, computers just work; they’re a lot more reliable than they used to be, and software programs are a lot easier to use without learning a lot of tips and tricks. The younger generation never experienced the “do it yourself” era of personal computing, so they don’t appreciate—and don’t care about—what goes on under the hood. To them, a computer is no different than a toaster; all they care about is the toast.

What Generation Z does, however, is utilize the environment that technology makes possible. They’ve grown up with the world of social networking, first with MySpace and now with Facebook. It’s how they keep in touch with their friends, and with people who they call their friends. For many of this generation, Facebook is the equivalent of their operating system; they open Facebook in their browsers in the morning, and never leave that environment during the course of the day. They do everything from within Facebook—posting and reading messages, sending instant messages, even playing games. It’s where they live.

Think of it this way. Baby Boomers represented the television generation. Generation X was the Pong and PC generation. Generation Y was the Microsoft Office generation. And Generation Z is the Facebook generation—God help ‘em.

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