Thursday, June 26, 2008

Generation Gap

A couple of months ago, some coworkers and I attended a brainstorming session with a few of the ad wizards from Red Deluxe. Much of the discussion revolved around marketing to "Millennials," which is a fancy term for Generation Y, the group immediately following my beloved Generation X. During that meeting, as we discussed texting and IMing and online shopping and cynicism, I looked smugly around the room at all the Baby Boomers and thought, "Yeah, Gen X can hang. We know about that stuff." I may be (almost) 35, but I'm not totally out of it.

Or so I thought. After learning about what market research had to say about these kids, I started observing them a little more closely. On the surface, things didn't look so different. Then, in quick succession, I had an email exchange with one twentysomething and an IM exchange with another that suddenly alerted me to the main issue separating X from Y.


Now don't get me wrong- it's not that the Millennials sound like cavemen, or that the MTV generation speaks only the Queen's English. No, when we talk to each other it's all the same. The difference comes when we try to communicate in the aforementioned cool, hip ways. That’s when I realize just how out of touch I am.

Gen Y: how was your weekend
Gen X: Mom kept the kids Saturday night, so Chip and I went out to dinner. Then we got stuck sitting next to a table full of kids!
Gen Y: haha thats crazy. where did you go

It’s worth noting that most of my texting and IM activity involves other people my age. We craft carefully worded sentences, full of punctuation and capitals, and even correct ourselves if a typo slips through. Sure, we throw in a BRB or LOL every now and again- we’re not opposed to acronyms. We spent most of high school writing notes (an old-fashioned precursor to texting) that included phrases like BFF and LYLAS. But we also started each note with ’Sup- not sup- because we demanded an apostrophe to hold the place of those dropped letters.

Thirtysomething: You can work a desk job while he works on becoming a professional photographer.
That's my plan, but with writign.
Me: You're off to a good start there.
Thirtysomething: Ha! I misspelled "writing."

The Millennials don’t have these standards. They zoom through an instant message without so much as an accidental brush against the shift key. No apostrophes, no capitals, no shame. In a recent attempt to hold my own with someone younger, I tried to type in the style of the day- a bunch of letters, no punctuation- but found that I couldn’t. I would try so hard to not hit the shift key, but then accidentally I would, and it looked even more dorky that some words were correct and some weren’t, so I went back and edited the IM so that it was uniformly wrong. Are you kidding me? I quickly went back to my normal patterns. I'm sure the youngster I was chatting with was picturing a gray-haired old lady typing away on my end, but that’s just how it will have to be. I can't give up my commas.

It’s hard to believe I have children who are even younger than the Millenials. What will their catchy nickname be? How will Red Deluxe market to them? Will they grow up using apostrophes? One thing is for certain- I will have to work pretty hard to stay a step ahead of them. It’s clear that I’m already falling way behind.


Sassy Molassy said...

I'm right there with you. And even more sad? I can't use acronyms when texting even if I want to because I can't figure out how that works using T9.

Memphis Urban Sketchers said...

Amen! Sometimes while texting I will throw in a "2" for "to" or "u" for "you" but it always feels wrong. I don't even like words like "texting", but I don't know what else to call it. I refuse to use "LOL", but "BRB" is okay for some reason. I even spell out "okay".

Shannon said...

Your acting crazy their.

But seriously, it is because the younger generation grew up with computers that auto-correct and auto-capitalize for them. We grew up turning in our typed papers and getting a minus-1 for every time we accidentally put "i" instead of "I".

My problem with the younger generation is that they are younger than I am.

Chip said...

lol your brilliant haha

Mrs. Katherine said...

this post is kool

Stacey Greenberg said...

i don't im, but i hardly use capitals in emails or texts (or comments apparently). i don't know how to make a capital while texting.

Cheapo Mimi in Nashville said...

I happen to think your Millenial SIL has better grammar skills than most 35 year olds I communicate with via e-mail on a daily basis!

We old farts (I'm certainly not including you in that category) just tend to stay away from IMing and refuse to learn the lingo. I always thought that LOL (until I was corrected by above said Millenial meant "lots of love".

Cheapo Mimi in Nashville said...

And, oh yes, I can't spell millennial right anyway

Stanfill said...

i'm with stacey-i hardly ever use capitals. i also use dashes way too often in my social emails. it's weird.

Anonymous said...

Our kids are Gen Z...and the communication gap is even wider--just ask Jiro.

Unknown said...

I can't stand the acronyms. It's just laziness.

And not capitalizing makes me mental.