“What was your biggest take-away today?” was the question he asked me.
We were at the happy hour following Public Media Camp on Saturday, and I was talking to @digiphile about the day behind us. I have a propensity to answer questions with either brevity, bluntness and clarity of thought that can be shockingly specific, or to wend my way through terrain that you’d never think would lead back to an answer; yet it does. For Alex/@digiphile, I chose the latter. Essentially, it’s this —
The first session I attended at the camp was about the relationship between traditional public media (the NPRs and PBS-es of America, for example) and new media: the bloggers, twitterers, YouTube content generators, and so forth. I arrived while the session was in process and felt immediately that I was in the middle of a culture war. I know this battle. Lived it. Strategized in it. Been frustrated by it. Been vilified. Been exalted. The whole kit-n-caboodle. And, I know it deeply from a generational theory perspective as well.
Within minutes of being in the room, a woman a bit older than me and from the traditional media side of things said, (paraphrasing, I am), “Well, once WE set the standards of what we’ll accept from citizen journalists, then we can work with them.” A well-established blogger in DC, without skipping a beat and with passion in his heart, informed her, “We don’t want to volunteer for you. We want to be in partnership with you.”
And that’s when I had my ah-hah. My take-away, so to speak. See, GenXers (born 1961-1981) have been the junior gen to Boomers (born 1943-1960) since the day they arrived. Boomers– while they typically don’t see this in themselves or their gen — are turf squatters, and believe that if they’ve sat long enough on turf, it’s theirs, dammit. GenXers (the Nomad generation in archetypal language) grows up and moves through young adulthood deeply understanding that there just isn’t any room for them at the table. So, the skill set most GenXers develop is to find ways around obstacles, fortresses, dysfunctional systems, calcified processes.
As social media has ascended, and more GenXers than any other generation have embraced the tools (there’s a reason for this, but that’s another convo), the GenXers have been banging on Boomer doors (traditional media, in this case), saying, “Hey! Hey, listen, there’s some really interesting stuff happening over here.” But most Boomers/traditional institution leaders have continued to treat GenXers as they’ve known them as young adults: the temp worker/slacker/lackeys to whom they pushed off the onerous tasks of dealing with complexities and icky details. They (the Boomers) continue to see themselves as King of the Hill, even while things are changing radically.
** I’m intentionally being big and — even gross — with my generalizations for story-telling here, k? **
When the PubCamp blogger said emphatically to the well-paid, entrenched traditional media lady — who was assuming that a blogger would want to volunteer under her organization’s terms of providing content, “We don’t want to volunteer for you. We want to be in partnership with you,” I knew then that the tides had shifted.
The shift is a subtle one. And it’s bigger than most entrenched leaders in traditional media, corporate America or government organizations probably understand. The shift is that GenXers have moved away from asking for attention and respect, vis-a-vis their ideas/visions/Web 2.0 activity and problem-solving and are moving on, with or without the institutions. Like I said, it’s a subtle shift. But mark my words, it’s happened. (The subtle but huge things are what I tend to notice.) GenXers are offering Boomers a last chance for partnership and the opportunity to be involved and engaged. Boomers who continue to think as though they still are in control (even if they are by title), and who think that from that titular control they will set the rules without treating GenXers as partners, well … they will be marginalized. Not because GenXers want to marginalize Boomers, but because the time is now to collaborate and to allow new leadership and perspectives to have equal, if not greater, sway in going forward.
So, my take-away: the shift has occurred. Now, it’s only a matter of observing it. It’s not personal. It’s not violent or aggressive. It’s a natural order of change and development. GenXers across America will do well to step into the leadership that is right and particular to them. Boomers will do well to release their grip and their assumption that because they’ve sat on turf for decades it is theirs in perpetuity. As GenXers transform from being isolated and alienated and as Boomers transform from wanting the first and last say on operational details, the rate of change and development is going to accelerate even faster than things have been moving for the last several years.
And to any Boomers who have a hard time with this, let me clue you in: We have the pressure of Millennials behind us. We’re not just asking you to move over. We’re moving on with or without you because we have to. A generation is behind us, itching to move forward as well.
Rock on, beautiful people, rock on.
And, no, I didn’t proofread or fact check my article.