Surreal social networking

Isn’t it interesting how we are always learning, and for me rightly or wrongly how I can’t stop myself noticing the impact for business of things I observe.

Last week I was reminded of a talk we at MD2MD had from a speaker called Graeme Codrington on the generation gap. Graham explained how different generations, having grown up in quite different world circumstances develop quite different value sets, quite different behaviours and have quite different expectations.

As a consequence of Graeme’s talk and other thinking since, I see myself as fairly well aware, and as an avid Internet user and someone with original roots in IT as someone relatively well up on the Internet and Social Networking ‘scene’.

Which is all to lead up, as you might expect, to discovering that I’m not quite as aware as I thought.

The story is very simple. We were away skiing last week in Austria. Sitting in the hotel one evening I notice my daughter and step-daughter (both 13) avidly texting on one of their phones. Concerned they may not realise the cost of texting internationally I gently enquire. The answer comes back “It’s ok we’re using Bluetooth”. Now being fairly technically literate, I know this means they are exchanging texts with someone within a few metres. So a further enquiry: Who with. Answer: “That German speaking Swiss girl on the table behind you. She’s 13 too!” “Oh and how do you say… in German?”

So far so good. I can sort of understand that they might come across someone to chat to through playing with Bluetooth. But it was the next day I realised I simply didn’t understand enough about the psychology of teens in today’s social networking world. I assumed that by the next day they would have moved on from the hassle of texting someone less than five metres away to chat face: face. But NO! I’m a naïve parent. It was THREE DAYS later before they eventually spoke face to face. Three days where we sat there watching them texting knowing the person they were texting was on the next table behind us!

To me absolutely crazy. But it IS the way THEY develop their social networks. We can call it sad, strange, dangerous or whatever we like, but we have to recognise it is the way the ‘Millennial generation’ are.

And finally, lest this appear to be a rant on teenagers, let me link this back to business. These teenagers are the people we will be recruiting into our businesses within five years, and probably already are as I don’t think my girls are necessarily pioneers. And for many businesses, these are the people to whom we are selling – certainly if you are in the music, fashion or technology business. And if we are to successfully recruit them or sell to them we need to understand them, and how to reach them.

No wonder sites such as Facebook are growing wildly!

And as a footnote to those of you, like me, worried about teenagers meeting people through Bluetooth,  I would add that I do have concerns obviously about their security.  Like most parents of teens, we are continually trying to find the right tricky balance between their safety and their freedom to grow up and explore and learn about the world.

Written by Bob Bradley, founder of MD2MD

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