Millennials, We Still Love Ya

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia high school student Gillian Share-Raab wrote an article bemoaning her own obsession with technology for the Burlington County Times. She spoke passionately about her connection to (and her constant need to be connected with) her tech, and how it has taken a toll on her life. She writes:

Now, my conversations consist of dehumanized, emotionless messages used for necessity that are conducted without essential facial expressions or body language (i.e., texting),” young Gillian wrote. “I often think of how different the high school experience must have been for my parents’ generation, or even just 15 years ago, when two people seated next to each other with common interests and mutual friends were able to have a civil conversation without looking down at their phones in order to avoid eye contact.

Now keep in mind that this is a teen who’s wishing she could unplug from a “social media addiction.” In her short article she gives a pretty clear insider’s view of what she sees as a problem for her tech-focused generation. It’s something we’ve pointed out a time or two here, as well.

However, there’s another issue some people have been pointing to lately that, oddly, highlights Millennial’s lack of technological prowess. Yes, I know, that sounds pretty counter-intuitive, considering all the talk of Millennials being the first truly plugged-in, Internet-friendly generation. But while Millennials (generally, people between the ages of 18 and 30 are adept at firing off texts and Tweets, they’re not necessarily so tech-savvy when it comes to business.

According to Chris Pope, senior director of strategy at the technology services company ServiceNow, today’s youthful crop of “digital natives” have a big office-place weakness: They don’t know what to make of e-mail. “Most Gen Ys grew up accustomed to using social media and texting for communicating and collaborating and haven’t had to use e-mail or spreadsheets extensively,” Pope said.

So while Millennials can send and open e-mails just fine, Pope suggests they don’t necessarily know what to put in them. When it comes to actually writing a well-worded e-mail in the business domain, 140 character smartphone blasts and text shorthand messages like, “AAMOF I’m OTR but IBRB LMKHTWFY 10Q” don’t work so well.

(For those of you in need of a translation that’s: “As A Matter Of Fact, I’m On The Road, but I’ll Be Right Back. Let Me Know How That Works For You. Thanks.”)

And that’s not all. A study of college kids and various university libraries seemed to suggest that Millennials even have a tough time with Google searches.

“When it comes to finding and evaluating sources in the Internet age, students are downright lousy,” an Inside Higher Ed article opined about the study. “They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources.”

Now, these studies have their limits. Just as every Baby Boomer isn’t a rotund head-case who spent his youth puffing weed at rock concerts and every “Gen Xer” isn’t a former Bill & Ted-like slacker, every Millennial isn’t ill-equipped to use an office computer or get their job done. But the perception is certainly out there. And it’ll be up to Millennials themselves to correct any perceptions, be they fair or no, in the workplace.

So, to the Millennials who may be reading this, let me end by saying, stay strong. Keep going. Keep working. All the best. Oh, and drop me an email when you get a chance.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

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