The “Gap Generation” and the Future of Social Media

My boss at Katerva, Terry Waghorn, has a blog on Forbes.com. His latest post is an interview with Jack Myers, a media ecologist who has taken a special interest in what he calls the “gap generation” – those who are currently older teens and young adults and have never lived in a world without internet. As 18-22 year old college students in the year 2012, we are all members of this gap generation, which is evident considering the looks on many of our faces when someone recalled using a wind-up radio instead of a smart phone to get news during a recent hurricane.

What makes us “special” as a generation? Myers says, “People growing up with the Internet are growing up with a fundamentally different DNA, a different inbred sense of who they are and how to connect with the world.” He describes the gap generation as social and collaborative. We have matured in an environment in which human equality, diversity, and human rights are assumed birthrights – they are our standard, our norm. Myers believes that the gap generation is the next “great generation,” because we have grown up using the internet to educate ourselves about the world around us. He says, “As pioneers they’re leaders. As leaders they’re builders, and their focus is on building a more stable future and a more tolerant society, doing social good, using online tools to bring people together, creating more balance and equality in their lives.” He believes that there is a great deal of hope in our generation.

When asked about the impact the gap generation will have on mainstream media going forward, Myers responded, “The Internet pioneer will embrace interactivity. They’ll be much more engaged online with all media, less engaged with traditional media. They’ll migrate toward programs that embrace equality and tolerance.” Today we discussed some of the changes and evolutions in technology used during disasters that we would like to see in years to come. If Myers is correct, if the gap generation really does bring with it hope for changing the world, maybe a lot of these needed innovations will come to fruition. Maybe our generation will be able to use ICT’s to address development problems that have persisted over time.

He says about the gap generation, “They’re not activists, but they are online spreading the word. They’re incredibly sophisticated in their ability to use online social media to achieve their ends.” This is something that we have seen very clearly even over the course of the semester. We have used social media to learn and spread information about different development topics. We have used social media to communicate with our families and friends and access real-time updates during two different hurricanes. We have used social media to express our opinions on America’s political climate and Presidential election. It will be interesting to see how the prevalence and use of ICTs change as the gap generation grows older and enters the spheres of business, politics, health, and so on. How do you think we will use social media tools in the future? Will we use them as end-all be-all solutions, or treat them as supplementary to the more traditional media systems already in place? How will social media continue to evolve to help us achieve our goals?

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One response to “The “Gap Generation” and the Future of Social Media

  • janinewilkin

    Thank you for this post. It is important to reflect upon our relationship with social media tools. (Most of us would find it impossible to imagine our educational careers without them. And the obvious social media platforms are inextricable from our daily lives. I think Myers is right in asserting that our generation is sophisticated in our ability to use online social media to achieve our ends. And this course has opened up the questions you pose in your post. While I do believe social media will continue to evolve, it is valuable to consider what we learned yesterday from Sara Estes Cohn: She thinks the biggest problem we face is focusing on bright shiny things technology can do, and not on the law, standards, process, and eduation that is needed to make social media tools successful.

    A strong foundation must be in place if our social media aims are to be utilized productively.

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