Self-iY Generation: Tim Elmore on unsocialized social networkers

Computer lab at The Bethany School

OCALA, Fla., July 21, 2014 — The way our nation’s young adults react to our changing economy, demographic makeup, and social landscape will determine the course of United States history.

Call this set “Generation Y”. Or the “Self-iY Generation” declares Y-ers “(t)he generation of people born during the 1980s and early 1990s. The name is based on Generation X, the generation that preceded them.

“Members of Generation Y are often referred to as ‘echo boomers’ because they are the children of parents born during the baby boom (the ‘baby boomers’). Because children born during this time period have had constant access to technology (computers, cell phones) in their youth, they have required many employers to update their hiring strategy in order to incorporate updated forms of technology.”

And their lives are shared by the 6 second Vine video and Instagram snapshot.

Generation Y is far more complicated than the instant social media share allows.

Its members have, by and large, have developed a contradictory worldview; one in which altruism meets something just short of solipsism in the blink of an eye. Beyond philosophy, Y-ers often have alarming rates of personal depression, less-than-inspiring work ethics, and a preference for virtual social networking over spoken conversation.

Dr. Tim Elmore is trying to turn this around. The founder and president of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit group out of Norcross, Georgia, he has devoted his career to teaching young adults leadership skills. He is also a bestselling author who termed Generation Y as “Generation iY”.

“I actually believe that Generation Y is maturing in opposite directions,” Dr. Elmore told me in 2012. “Mentally, these kids are the most intelligent, talented generation yet. Emotionally, they are lacking. Adults are fooled by this ‘artificial maturity,’ because intelligence is often mistaken for maturity. In reality, intellectual maturity and emotional maturity are two very different things. It’s why we are seeing young adults graduating college with perfect GPA’s, unable to make it in the workforce, and moving back in with mom and dad.”

How has the rise of social networking related to the intellectual development of Generation iY?

“If by social networking you mean connecting with peers via technology, I would say it has had both negative and positive impact on Generation iY,” Dr. Elmore explained. “Brain researchers tell us their brains are literally being re-wired due to the long hours they spend in front of a screen.

“They are able to digest lots more data more quickly than their parent’s generation did at their age. ‘Speed’ is their middle name. I say this partially tongue and cheek, but they can multi-task carrying on a live and in-person conversation, while texting someone else while being on iChat with a third person.

“Unlike their elders, however, research for them is not as grueling a process with Google and Wikipedia. Athletic coaches and faculty tell me that mental tenacity is down. At the same time, statistics show they have emotionally atrophied, because conversations are often through a screen.

“A teenage boy may break up with his girlfriend on a text because he didn’t have the emotional backbone to do it face to face. The sociology department at the University of Michigan tells us that college students today are 40% less empathetic than ten years ago. This part of their mind must be strengthened.”

Many think that the Information Age has severely altered the human socialization process. Is this true?

“Absolutely — one of the most unfortunate effects I have noticed from the Information Age is a severe lack of empathy,” Dr. Elmore said. “Instead of breaking up with their girlfriend face to face, these kids are sending texts. Instead of working out problems face to face, they are cyber bullying. I can’t help but think that the increase in screen time coupled with the decrease in face time has severely atrophied these kids’ emotional muscle.”

In the future, might Generation iY become more productive? Or, could it be expected to introduce new norms to our society?

“I believe that as Generation Y becomes fully integrated in the workforce and managers learn to lead them effectively, they will collectively become more productive,” Dr. Elmore stated. “Recently, I have worked with a few managers who refuse to alter their management style to better communicate with and engage this new generation of professionals. That isn’t the best approach.

“We are already seeing some of the positive effects that come with a little attention to the favored work styles of Generation iY and how productivity increases dramatically as leadership recognizes that an evolution in leadership is necessary, and inevitable.”

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