The concept of digital natives and digital immigrants is a controversial one. Is age a good enough predictor of digital proficiency? Or do other variables play just as important a role? This is the final part of a series of three entries that look into what factors affect our digital development, concentrating on social media. Read part one here, and part two here.
The Great Baby Boomer Catch Up
Younger people do appear to be more likely to use social media. Figures from Pew show that 86% of millenials in the USA use social media. However, rate of engagement with the social web amongst baby boomers and veterans, has been increasing at a faster pace. According to Deloitte, the number of baby boomers maintaining a social media profile increased from 15% in 2008 to 47% in 2009. The Pew study shows that the number of veterans using social media doubled between 2009 and 2010.
Shaping the social web
These figures show that those outside the millennial generation can learn to use social media. Indeed, they can do more than that. The average age of a linkedin user is 44 for example. This is not surprising considering the professional nature of the platform. What it shows, is that baby boomers and those in generation X, are not just passively using social media, they are shaping platforms relevant to their lifestyles. If they can do this for themselves, they can also do it for employers, and with these skills, they can also being years of experience.
This isn’t to say that baby boomers and those in generation X have an advantage over millenials. Indeed millenials can often be at the cutting edge of new media, and can play a vital part in building the digital proficiency of a consultancy or organisation (and as a millenial myself, I’d like to stress this point!).
It is not a lack of ability to ‘become digital’ that has held some people back, it is a conservative and cynical attitude towards change, particularly in regard to social media. Luckily, this attitude appears to be diminishing. Rather than obsessing about age, the emphasis should be on embracing change, and striving to learn new skills on the job.
Because with a fast moving field like PR and digital comms, staying still IS moving backwards.