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Mike Elgan

Have you ever tried to get an older person to use Facebook?

We bought my grandmother an iPad for her 98th birthday last week. Tellingly, she was able to use it very
quickly and easily. She immediately started reading and sending
e-mails, and playing some of the games we installed. She loves the iPad.
Facebook? Not so much.

The Facebook account we set up for her was actively ignored. She hates Facebook. How can that be? Facebook is easy enough to use, and the
payoff is enormous -- keeping in touch with her extensive network of
family and friends.

I've noticed the same phenomenon with my dad. He's out of the loop with family news. When he asks me what's going on with the family, I
have to practically copy and paste from Facebook. It's all there. Why
won't he just look? My dad can do all kinds of things that seem
impossible to me. He can rebuild a car engine. He can build an entire
house singlehandedly. But he can't use Facebook.

My wife has a friend in her 80s. She's super smart and in many ways lives like a young person. She uses e-mail and has no trouble with other
facets of modern life. But Facebook? She won't do it. My wife and I
gently urged her to get into Facebook and trotted out all the benefits.
She could see photos and get the news on her grandchildren, and
generally stay in better touch with loved ones. Finally, she came out
with it: "I understand that's it's great, but I just can't and won't do

Here's the interesting bit. Some older people respond to Facebook in exactly the same way that younger people respond to not using

Plunk a high school student in a classroom with no phones, no electronics and no interaction, and tell them to simply pay attention to
the teacher talking. Like older people on Facebook, they squirm, feel
disoriented and can't focus.

What's going on here? What is it about Facebook that makes it such an effective generational marker?

It's all about brain wiring

Have you ever seen the Four Eyes Illusion? It's a picture of a young woman digitally altered with an extra pair of eyes and an extra mouth. The
image is shockingly uncomfortable to look at. The picture makes some
people dizzy, or even nauseated. Why is that?

The reason is that our brains are hardwired to recognize the human face. Once we burn into our brains that faces have two eyes and one
mouth, we cannot accept one with four eyes and two mouths. We hate
looking at it. We feel anxious. It challenges the foundations of our
mental firmware.

And that's what's happening with Facebook. Many people over 60 established very early on a clear understanding about communication:
There are two kinds. The first is one-to-one and private. Letters, phone
calls, telegrams. The second is one-to-many and public. TV, radio. A
person with this hardwiring has no trouble with e-mail, which is
understood to be an electronic version of the postal system. They also
have no problem with YouTube, which is viewed as an Internet version of
TV, more or less.

When some older people try to mentally grasp Facebook, it's like looking at the Four Eyes Illusion. It's neither one-to-one nor
one-to-many. Facebook communication is any-to-any. Any number of people
(individuals or groups) are communicating to any number of other people.
And is it public or private? Who is seeing this? So other people see
what I see, but also they don't? Facebook's fundamental structure is
incompatible with mental hardwiring about communications media.

Not using Facebook is similarly disorienting to teens, and always will be -- even when they get old. People younger than 20 were born more
recently than 1990. That means one of the first objects they recognized
as toddlers was the personal computer. By the time they were old enough
to talk to grandma on the telephone, they did so with a cell phone. By
the age of 12, they started begging their parents for a cell phone
capable of Internet connectivity and texting ("Everybody else has one!!
Pleeeeease!"). They had already been using AIM on their PCs for years.

Kids under 20 have been hardwired with a new understanding about communication. It's pervasive, mobile and any-to-any. Is it public?
Private? Whatever. There's so much of it that nobody cares. I just want
to talk to my friends any time I want.

People older than 60 tend to be Real World People. They're comfortable with technology as long as it correlates with objects in the
real world. They use e-mail to say, "call me." If you send them an
electronic photo, they want to print it out. Experiences are validated
only by being there in person. "Social" means face-to-face.

People under 20 are Virtual World People. They're comfortable with the real world as long as it's augmented by digital technology. They use
the phone to say, "text me." If you give them a paper photo they like,
they ask for the digital version. Experiences are validated only by
sharing electronically. "Social" means online.

What does that say about you and me?

People between the ages of 20 and 60 are unique in human history. Like something out of the movie "Splice," we are hybrid, mutant
creatures. We have the mental wiring of both Real World and Virtual
World Peoples.

We're a transitional "generation," and the only ones in human history generally capable of fully enjoying Facebook and also functioning
without Facebook.

The reason is that we had time to adjust. When we were young children, there was no cell phone usage, social networking, chatting,
massively multi-player online games or texting in our environment. We
were taken step-by-step through the development of pervasive technology,
one product or service at a time. Our first cell phone barely did
anything. When we were introduced to instant messaging and texting, it
was socially optional. Communication in our lifetimes evolved gradually
from analog to digital to what we now call social, meaning communication
enhanced by software that facilitates human connection.

In fact, we are and will be the only "generation" in human history with the luxury of being slowly and gradually introduced to
computer-enhanced living.

With great wiring comes great responsibility

Because we're a transitional people, we need to have a clear understanding about what's going on.

First, grandma's Facebook aversion isn't senility. If she doesn't like Facebook, she probably never will. Facebook is incompatible
software for her mental hardware.

More importantly, we're all going to have to deal with young people as they enter the workforce.

Their obsession with constant communication and comfort level with informal relationships isn't the result of stupidity, laziness or lack
of character. It's brain wiring.

I'm going to say this as plainly as I can: Young people will use Facebook at work. Period.

Telling someone right out of college that they can't use Facebook at work is like your boss telling you that you can't talk to coworkers.
Imagine sitting right next to a friend and colleague, but company rules
say you can never talk to them. There's no technical reason why you
can't talk. It's just that the company doesn't want you to.

You and I would never work at such a place. And today's young people will never accept company rules that prevent constant social networking.
They believe that the only reason such rules are in place is that the
people who made those rules entered the workforce before Facebook
existed. And they're exactly right.

Coping with young people at work will be a great challenge to the rest of us. We need to resist the temptation to assume they're idiot
slackers, and instead understand that they're actually on to something.
For example, social networking-influenced business communication is in
reality vastly superior to the old-and-busted memos, e-mails and
meetings model.

Forcing young people to see the world our way is a losing proposition. They cannot and will not ever understand the mental wiring
of people who once thought Atari games -- or even Pong -- were like
something out of science fiction.

But we can see things their way. And we should. Starting with Facebook at work. Just let it happen.

Views: 35


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Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on June 26, 2010 at 6:26am
"I'm going to say this as plainly as I can: Young people will use Facebook at work. Period. AND "But we can see things their way. And we should. Starting with Facebook at work. Just let it happen." Are two statements that this old fossil isn't quite ready to swallow....I did not like the new fangled "pre-sweetened" KoolAid when it was introduced in my latter was still KoolAid and I chose not to drink it. "Forcing young people to see the world our way is a losing proposition. They cannot and will not ever understand the mental wiring
of people who once thought Atari games -- or even Pong -- were like
something out of science fiction."
I do not need young people to understand my mental wiring to work for me....only that they accept it...If they do not, they will not work for me. I, no doubt, am a bit of a control freak in the eyes of the author in that I still believe in and require that you "check your guns at the door". There was a time when smoking in the work place allowed many of us to have a "ciggybop" (a term only us old farts can recall) lit most of the time in the do we now allow our smokers to stand outside all day and smoke or do we require that they do it with reasonable frequency?....I attend weekly managers meetings and routinely hear excuses of more time needed to meet objectives assigned by the general manager....those that make the excuses are the ones who spend a good share of their day on YouTube, Ebay,Craigslist, and yes...Facebook..non Web Sensed managers...."CyberSnacking" ...I like FaceBook because when I get home after work I can see who was saying what to whom and at what time they said it, most do it all day long while they are being paid to work...I am all about using all available software, anywhere I can find it if it improves my ability to communicate and promote my goods and services....Quite frankly it is exhausting having to explain to to the "young" folks that I hire that having a six shooter on your hip does not mean you can fire it anytime you wish. Because a young person grew up with instant everything does not in itself become a "right". My 22 year old photographer will not stop taking pictures of my inventory while I am paying him to text his buddy about anything. My 38 year old ISM will not let his day be interrupted by his 3 children and wife several times a day about non emergency issues on his cell phone. As I walk through the showroom ( outside of my department) I glance at the monitors and rarely see anything work related on them but most sales people are staring at them, not data mining, not cultivating, but Youtubing and Facebooking and what little walk in traffic that remains is left unnoticed.... I for one , will force young people to see the world my way" when I pay them to do what I want them to do.... and...."they can see things my way. and they should. Starting with FaceBook at work. I will not just let it happen" No more than I will tolerate a smoker who works for me to stand out side and smoke all day just becausejust because he is a smoker, I will not accept an employee who works for me to socialize his day away just because the technology is on his hip.....I do not argue the merits of social networking as it relates to our business, but I strongly disagree with the message I took from this blog.....but that is probably the problem.... I am old and don't get it..... For the record, I have some very talented and very young people working for me and it tickles the heck out of me when I see them "crossover" and begin to see and understand that staying focused and on the task at hand, leaving the many social activities they were used to, pulling at them, behind, and begin to understand it produces results and they become winners...To my competition, please take no stock in what I have said....Please encourage all of your young employees (and old for that matter) in your dealership to engage in non stop electronic socializing .... they grew up with it and it is their right. See it their way. And you should. Starting with facebook. Just let it happen. I am the father of five boys, my youngest is 15 , my oldest is 37.... One of my biggest time sinks is hiring young people and weening him/her off their addiction to immediate electronic communications and understanding that while in my employ I own their time, not not the person who just sent them a non work related text. Because I am an old man you know I have to say this so please excuse the following... To a person, everyone who reads this who is in the car business has witnessed a young person disrespecting their parents by texting one of their buds about nothing while the parents are attempting to buy the young person a car, the kid may as well not be there...or... the parent and young person is in our service lanes talking to our writers about repairing the young persons car, how dare our service writers interrupt the kid while he is texting his bud to ask where the "clunk" sounds like it is coming from!...The respectful thing we as parents and service writers now is to wait until the young person finishes his texting about nothing and then ask the young person where the clunk sounds like it is coming from... and nowadays the parents are more and more willing to do just that....ever been hit by a young person texting while driving?...It happens everyday. What ever the young person was texting was probably more important than paying attention to driving. If your salespersons can handle all means let it happen, but are not these the same people we talk about who need constant supervision and motivation, who stand around waiting for something to happen and be created for them?... who are hired guns and will not do anything unless it results in an immediate sale?..who refuse to followup, fight online customers at every turn?....ever walk by a salespersons desk and see a pokerhand on his/her screen or is it just me in my store?.... I am not ready for this KoolAid no matter how you sweeten it....while I am at it, I am not ready to accept "For example, social networking-influenced business communication is in
reality vastly superior to the old-and-busted memos, e-mails and
meetings model."... My young team just accomplished some hard fought goals and resisted all temptations to be distracted by electronic socializing while remaining on task....I composed and hand wrote a "vastly inferior old-and-busted" letter acknowledging of their fine effort and sent it US Postal Service to their homes, actually purchased and licked the stamp myself.....two out of the three commented that outside of Grandparents sending notes with cards had never received a letter from anyone in their lives, all 22 and 23 years of would have thought our current president, Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower himself had written that letter to them by the way they reacted to my letter. Two of my young techies actually hand write notes when I give them an assignment, prior to working with me they never had to. Not everything they were accustom to, they are finding out, does not always apply to the corporate culture. In fairness, I learn from the young folks everyday... As I am writing this, A young person just walked his dog by my house and his dog took a dump in my yard and now is walking away from it, my wife called attention to this,(this is true)...but because this kid is hard wired this way and it is acceptable behavior for him and his generation, I did not go outside and raise hell with him (that part is not true)...I asked him to please come back and get it off my lawn. He is doing so as I end this comment.

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