Across the last couple of decades, our technology and use of technology has shifted dramatically, with so many inventions and advancements of our tech. With this evolution, the different generations across our society have experienced different exposure to this technology. As such, we have all developed different approaches towards the technology itself, using it for communication and using it for social networking.
What are the generations
A generation of people is a cluster of people born within a specific timeframe of within the same 10 – 20 year period. They have all experienced similar life situations and usually have the same influences to the generation, such as current events, fads, economic times, education and technology.
To compare technology and the different users, we will focus on the four most prevalent generations currently, and what their similarities and differences to each other are. These four generations are :
- Baby boomers – These are people typically born between the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s where the main emerging technology was television.
- Generation X – These are people typically born between the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s and were the first generation exposed to computers and the internet.
- Generation Y – These are people typically born between the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s where technology reached the point where these people, who are also referred to as millennials, became the generation to always be connected to each other 24/7 via the World Wide Web.
- Generation Z – These are people typically born between the mid 1990s to the mid 2010s and are sometimes referred to as the iGeneration, due to the emergence of the iPhone and other smartphones during their early years.
Differences with using technology
When it comes to using technology, there is a wide range of devices, software and habits to look at across the generations. Looking at how many people own smartphones within each generation, there is a significant rise in popularity as you go down the generations, just as how much the generations use this technology as increases with the younger generations.
Gen Y (Millenials) and Gen Z are more likely to turn to their phones and multiple platforms to communicate with text, share images and consume current affairs whilst the older generations are more likely to turn to Facebook or alternative methods for this information, such as calling someone or even posting a letter.
|Baby Boomers||Generation X||Generation Y||Generation Z|
|% who own smartphone||67%||85%||92%||98%|
|What the phone is used for||Calls||Social media, texting, emailing, games, music & videos||Social media, texting, emailing, games, music, news & videos||Social media, texting, emailing, games, music, news & videos|
|Preferred devices||Desktops, tablets & phones||Desktops, tablets & phones||Phones||Phones|
|Platforms used||Facebook & Youtube||Facebook, Youtube, Instagram & Streaming services||Facebook, Youtube, Streaming services, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter & Pinterest||Facebook, Youtube, Streaming services, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, Whatsapp & TikTok|
|Approach to new technology||Comfortable with existing technology, slower to try new technology||Comfortable with existing technology, slower to try new technology||Quick to try latest apps, games & released technology||Quick to try latest apps, games & released technology|
Statistical sources: studies & surveys ‘Marketo’, ‘LivePerson’, ‘PewResearch’ & ’Globalwebindex’ conducted.
Differences with using technology for communication
Looking at how people use technology for direct communication, there are a lot of differences between the older and younger generations.
As Baby Boomers grew up before the smartphone generation, they tend to mostly be accustomed to face-to-face and telephone communication only and prefer these methods.
Generation X are similar to Baby Boomers in this regard as well, although they are also comfortable and prefer using email as an efficient communication tool.
Generation Y and Z are the two generations that have begun to shift dramatically away from phone calls and emails and onto instant messaging through texts or the internet on various platforms.
Differences with using technology for networking and socializing
Social media and networking is something that is commonplace in our lives today, even for the older generations who grew up without online socializing the way the younger generations have.
Looking at a study from the Manifest, they found that more than 80% of every generation uses social media at least once per day, with images and photos being the most common type of media everyone prefers to share. Another similarity across generations when it comes to using social media include YouTube being the main site most people go to for video content.
For Baby Boomers and Gen Xs, in general their biggest social media site is Facebook, with 96% and 90% of those generations (respectively) using Facebook on a regular basis.
For Gen Ys and Gen Zs, social media is much more diverse and prevalent in their daily routine. Even between the two younger generations there are many differences as well. Both generations tend to use multiple platforms (with some example logos shown in this image) over multiple times a day. However it has been seen that Gen Y tend to flick between a lot of platforms, and Gen Z focus on a few key platforms they prefer to use.
Image souce: ‘theManifest’
Despite having so many different uses and trends in social media across the generations, most people tend to want to use social media for networking or socializing for the same reasons. These reasons include :
- Staying in touch with friends and family
- Being active within a community
- Searching for solutions or information
- Researching for ideas or inspiration
- Promoting professional endeavors
- Expanding their personal or professional network
The differences across generations when it comes to using technology tend to come mostly from what was readily available for each generation as they were growing up. Whatever the generations were originally exposed to, is generally what they tend to prefer even now. These differences become apparent especially across the way old and new technologies are used and explored generally across the generations.