I’m part of a research team at the moment that is looking at the transmission of values, youth, and new media, so I get to read a lot about how the young people are all on Web 2.0 and the oldies aren’t. I’ve also been spending quite a lot of time on YouTube of late – hey, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it :-) – and finding that many of the people hanging out there aren’t really that young.
Some of my colleagues and I have been talking about these things, and in our experience the generational divide is not so clear. Now this might be partially due to the nature of our jobs, but I’m inclined to think that it may not be. To give an example: among my Facebook friends are my children, nieces and nephews, past students, and children of my friends. My partner’s family has taken it up in a big way, with members from sixty to six months keeping in touch via Facebook.
We are not alone: I was listening to ABC radio one day when this topic came up and a lot of older people phoned in to say that they were friends with their children and grandchildren on Facebook.
Nor is it just Facebook. My friends and my children connect across Twitter, Lastfm, instant messaging, and blogs. Friends of my children now communicate on a regular basis with my friends through status updates.
I’ve also noticed an ease of communication across generations in old-fashioned face-to-face communication, so it is not just a ‘new media’ thing. And we learn from each other, in contrast to received wisdom that children learn from their parents and students from their teachers: I learnt a lot from my students, maybe more than they learnt from me at times; and we learn a lot about our world from our children, sometimes more than either of us are willing to admit.
I’m beginning to suspect that if there is a divide at all, it is far too simplistic to label it as a ‘generational’ divide.