Before and after the internet of life
I sometimes play Minecraft with my 6-year-old great-niece. She had to teach me how. When we’re together, she’ll get me set up to play multi-player with her. I hand my phone over to her so she can re-download the third-party apps that let me change my costume and manage my inventory. Later she’ll iMessage me with an email address her mom set up for her and tell me about Minecraft chats she had with other players from around the world. Some players are nice. Some are mean.
There’s a demarcation in my life that has grown bolder with time: before and after 24/7 mobile connectedness. The line developed somewhere in the middle of my now-40 years. It’s fuzzier and less definite than other classic before-and-afters, like 9/11 or JFK, but still very present.
Generational stereotypes annoy me. They’re usually lazy. But I’m going to leverage member privileges to weave in a few broad strokes about mine.
Most stories about a generation’s relationship to the digital focus on Millennials/Generation Z, Baby Boomer, or even the Greatest. Extreme ends are more interesting to explore: The young never knew a life that wasn’t IoT. The old got us here, only to find that the participation learning curve for someone who didn’t spend decades looking at a screen is steep.
However, Generation X’s split experience with both states of existence makes us a demo of interest in the workplace. Even though we’re sometimes made out to be more complicated than we are, one of our greatest assets is that we can serve as a bridge between the office’s young and old.
The internet permeates our existence now. Those of us who lived an analog first half of our life are owners of two competing but vibrant perspectives.
By analog, I don’t mean Gen Xers grew up in pioneer days. It’s not like we can tell Greatest Generation stories of walking uphill both ways to school. We had TV and Speak & Spells.
But our formative years were mostly spent hanging from monkey bars and riding bikes and making our stuffed animals talk to each other. We remember what it’s like when needing to make a phone call, we’d have to drive around to find a physical place that had an actual telephone to do so.
There’s a special dissonance beloning to an existence where the IoT half is built upon the memories of a largely unwired half. I desire the former but sometimes long for the simplicity of the latter.
But, the dissonance isn’t all negative. The tension is interesting and textured. We can play Minecraft and use an old spiraled Mapsco.
We’re perfectly positioned to straddle a pivotal, constantly-evolving line.