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July 25, 2010

I am a constant gamer

I just started subscribing to the Monday Note, a weekly e-mail newsletter about media and tech business. The first note in my inbox was about me. Or at least people like me, the "digital natives" between 18 and 24 who have more or less grown up online.

A French survey presents our habits. One of the key findings is that we are "constant gamers", modeling our real-life interactions on computer games. We don't trust brands, and see them as the enemy to defeat as we use all available tools to find the best deals online. Some brands, including Apple of course, "have gained access to a unique status of blind trustfulness", but overall we have little respect for authority.

“It mainly results from a generation gap in which management is still in the hands of people who don’t have a clue on how Digital Natives think”, says Edouard Le Marechal, who engineered the survey.

If he means "management is still in the hands of people who rely on surveys to understand how people in their early twenties work", then he is certainly correct.

Here are a few more interesting descriptions of my age group, quoted from Frédéric Filloux, who writes The Monday Note:

This isn't a survey I would focus on too much - it's just about a hundred or so French kids - but I can identify with the findings I've quoted above. I know many of my friends don't trust "the media", by which they mean major newspapers, but look to Facebook and Wikipedia for information and news about what's really going on. I would switch "Facebook friends of 200 or so" to "Twitter feeds of 600 or so" as my third level group, but I appreciate that someone is finally acknowledging that (duh!) we do know the difference between best friends and friends on Facebook.

Image via nongenderous

Posted by Julie at July 25, 2010 9:47 PM

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I wonder how much of this is a generational thing, and much is something that's happening to some degree across all age groups, just by the introduction of the web etc. into everyone's lives. Is there a large difference between a 20, 30, 40, 50 year old Facebook user, or is the difference just that the older groups are somewhat less likely to be users?

Wondering about this because it was a point in Nick Carr's The Shallows: He claims the internet changes reading habits for all age groups.

I would guess that habits relating to things like the workplace are more likely to be age-related. But asking 18-24 year olds about work culture is a bit pointless. They have to actually get jobs and spend some time in them before you can tell if they really approach authority differently. Also there are differences between countries and businesse cultures in how hierarchical they are, and how powerful/conservative management is. It's possible that someone who enters their first job disliking incompetent authority will end up tolerating it later. And btw who doesn't value competence over authority, at least ideally? Hasn't it been that way for a while now?

Posted by: Bjørn Stærk at July 25, 2010 11:13 PM

Bjørn Stærk - Thank you for a very interesting comment. I find the focus on generations a bit exaggerated and silly in general (including the way we group people into Gen Y and Gen X and whatever we're all supposed to be), but I think it appeals to us on a personal level somehow. Having read about "The Lost Generation" and "The Baby-boomers", of course I wonder what my peers will be called. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation) I'm actually a member of Gen Y or the Millenials, but I think I identify with the Digital Natives or Gen Z more. (For example, I'm referencing Wikipedia). And of course, generational differences will vary between societies. French internet habits, work habits and shopping habits are very different from Norwegian habits, in my experience. So overall, I think this generational focus is more of a marketing tactic for researchers and writers than an actual valid point in most cases.

Concerning authority, I think the survey is referring to authority figures young people meet through the media or in the market, not authority figures they meet at their own workplace. Brands need to market themselves as competent producers of products the digital natives want, not authority figures. They have to communicate to the digital natives at their level, not towering over them as superiors. At least that's the impression I got, but my French isn't strong enough to be absolutely sure.

Posted by: Julie R. Andersen at July 25, 2010 11:30 PM

My impression is that the generations with a clear identity lived through events that they had in common, that set them apart from older/younger people. People who fought in World War 2, or were students in the 1960's. Not sure what that common factor would be today. The changes the internet causes are changes everyone can be part of, if they want to.

But .. it has to have _some_ kind of effect to grow up with all this technology.

Posted by: Bjørn Stærk at July 25, 2010 11:50 PM

Bjørn Stærk - I agree completely. I do think there's a significant difference between the generations growing up with the internet and those who didn't. And I think while the internet changes habits of individuals of all ages, within countries, on average, there will be generational differences. It just might be too early to make sweeping statements about what growing up digital really means in the long term.

Posted by: Julie R. Andersen at July 25, 2010 11:56 PM