Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Which Generation is the Most Authentic?

My fellow Hourglass blogger Jamie Notter had this great post on his Get Me Jamie Notter blog about a month ago. (Okay, yeah, I know. I've been busy). It's about the risks associated with authenticity and about how social media is forcing some of us to tear down the barriers between the different roles we play.

It got me thinking about the generations and their ways of dealing with the issue. It seems to me that the problem may be uniquely GenX.

Millennials live online (or so we've been told). They are who they are, online or off, and their response to people who may question them (like parents or employers) is, "What's the big deal? This is who I am. Get used to it."

Boomers who use social media are by and large late adopters. They are more established in their careers (or retired) by the time they find social media. They see no point in not being your true self online. Those who have something horrible to hide are probably not using social media. Those who don't want the online world to see them for who they are. They say, "Look at me and all I've done. Isn't that great?"

Xers, on the other hand, are caught in the middle. We were raised in the pre-social media days, so I think we're naturally skeptical of all this new technology. We see the advanatges, but we also see the risks. We're also old enough that we find ourselves needing to manage more disparate roles that our younger and older colleagues. Jamie refers to the balancing act that goes with being a co-worker, boss, friend, parent, and child all at the same time. We're stuggling with what that means in the real world, and have managed by adopting different roles to deal with different relationships. When we try to bring those separate personas into the world of social media, we get nervous about the natural connectivity tearing down all those carefully constructed walls. We haven't put our whole selves out there, so we fear the thought of someone judging us by only a portion of who we are—and, depending on the eyeballs that are viewing us, we may feel that it is the "wrong" portion to be judging us by.

Am I nuts? If you're a Millennial or a Boomer, go and read Jamie's post and let me know if you can relate. I suspect you can't. Not the way the GenXers can.


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