Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life in the Fast Lane (of the Internet Highway)

My niece, who is now in her late 20s, was a precocious toddler, in my opinion.  She loved the movie The Secret of NIMH and at age 2 was perfectly capable of putting a Betamax copy of the movie in the player and watching it over and over (and over).  Earlier this summer, I watched my 2 year old granddaughter use the remote control to try to turn on "Yo Gabba Gabba!" on their knobless Bravia television.  Later she watched a music video of Numa Numa Yei on an iPhone while her auntie was combing her hair.

According to one survey, between roughly one fifth and one third of two year olds (depending on whether the moms are Gen X or GenY) today use smartphones, internet and digital cameras. Of course, the survey was done of  moms who themselves were high users of internet, social media and smartphones.  Indeed with the advent of these technologies, life travels in the fast lane from very early ages.

According to an AP article by Dinesh Ramde, we older folk (the baby boomers) clearly decry the speed at which things are changing but apparently even 30 somethings think that things are moving too fast. Is the fast lane becoming even faster?

Every year since 1988, Beloit College has published the Mindset List which provides a list what they call "the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college". From this years list:
  • There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
  • “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
  • Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  • They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
  • The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.
  • Music has always been available via free downloads.
  • They’re the first generation to grow up hearing about the dangerous overuse of antibiotics.
  • They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
  • Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.  (emphasis added)
  • They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
  • “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.
Copyright© 2011 Beloit College
 For my borderline-Gen X niece, these are some examples from the Mindset List for her cohort:
  • The Kennedy tragedy was a plane crash, not an assassination.
  • They have always bought telephones, rather than rent them from AT&T.
  • There have always been ATM machines.
  • Three Mile Island is ancient history, and nuclear accidents happen in other countries.
  • Women sailors have always been stationed on U.S. Navy ships
  •  They have never used a bottle of "White Out."

      I suppose one of the really big changes between 18 year olds (Gen Z)  and those near or  in their 30s (Gen X) is the prevalence of and dependence on smartphones.  Also, who needs an ATM these days?  Everyone pays with debit cards.  And my niece's crowd used Myspace, not Facebook,  which is now the domain of older people as much as teenagers.

      Is everything accelerating?  Will newborns in a few years reach out for whatever replaces smartphones? All I know is that I hope I am around to see and I hope that I can keep up, even if Gen X can't!

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