Spotting Digital Natives like an anthropologist. Catching the first sun after a long winter in Leuven we find students scattered in the park. To me – in my blossoming thirties – a strange sight and a blunt proof of the fact that I have slipped into another generation. Could I be a Digital Immigrant?
The fascinating part of being aged thirty-odd is the realization that you don’t really belong to the Digital Natives and you can even less identify with the older generation that is often nicknamed Digital Immigrants. We are the lost generation: opinionlesly born in the middle of the chasm; endlesly contemplating on whether to commit to social media or to deny instead; constantly feeling unconfortable. Too much confusion. Time for a second SOS VideoClass.
Again, the video is in Dutch (with my own Flemish accent 😉 ) and you will find the English transcript below.
We are here in Leuven and behind me you can see the next generation. The generation we could refer to as the Digital Natives. They are enjoying the afternoon in the park.
One thing that amazes me – and it may amaze you too – is the ease with which they handle things like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. To them it’s like a second nature, whereas for us it is sometimes a bit frightening.
What we often see is that we trust adult people of our age – the working generation – to go to the bank, to obtain a loan, to buy a house or to raise a family. However, once we come to work, we are treated like children. No LinkedIn, No Twitter, No blogs. And no Social Media. They are building a safe firewall around us.
This makes me think of the book 1984, written by George Orwell in 1949 and mandatory reading when I was at school. In chapter 5 Orwell introduces the concept of FaceCrime – a term that sounds a little like Facebook. It is a crime you commit by demonstrating too much of your personality, by displaying too much emotion and by giving away too much of your authenticity.
Today we can observe that social media has penetrated 76% of the population. For the people behind me this percentage will probably be way higher than that. Just imagine: 76% of your customers, your suppliers and foremost: your workforce is using social media.
To me this means that you have to be nuts as a company not to be present on that market. That you have to be out of your mind to lock your workforce out of that space. Particularly if you take note of the fact that we operate in a knowledge economy here in Belgium: We have no natural resources; We cannot produce something with added value faster or cheaper than the countries surrounding us – let alone the countries that are further away. Our raw material is knowledge; we’re smart – and that’s what we need to take advantage of.
Changing the way we look at things
The added value of knowledge increases the more it is shared and the more it is exchanged. What our economy needs at this very moment is more knowledge that evolves faster. And that is the reason why we have placed the lifebuoy right here, in the safe and protected kindergarten: it is time to stop overprotecting people. It is time to take both feet off the breaks. It is time to see social media no longer as a threat but as an opportunity.