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Is Generation Y Experiencing a Technology Burnout?

Working in a marketing agency, I’m surrounded by buzz words like ‘social media’ everyday. Recently, however, this new phenomenon turned up in a place I never expected: the Museum of Fine Arts.

I was there for a few hours before wandering into the gift shop to find two silvered hair women chatting with each other about their lives. My presence had interrupted their conversation and they turned to ask me if I needed any assistance, but I stood struck at the fact their conversation consisted of talking about Facebooking their grandchildren, using Twitter to get their Quilt group known, using the internet to find vintage fabric, and even sending text messages to their children!

These women were in their mid 70’s – slightly younger than my mother who is 82 and got instant anxiety when I bought her a cell phone…

I found myself lingering around the conversation listening to learn more about their on-line lives and trying to understand why they choose to stay current with the times, and others their age do not. This is a fascinating topic for me, so I decided to look up some more research — only to find that Baby Boomers are now adopting popular consumer technology applications at a faster rate and the younger generations are losing interest.

I am from the pre-computer age – my Graphic Arts college education consisted of t-squares, layout paper, marker comps and rapidographs – so the concept of us old folks keeping up and turning up the heat was fascinating.

Micro Persuasion: Social Networking Demographics: Boomers Jump In, Gen Y Plateaus — Baby boomers are the fastest growing segment of social networking users. So, if you think you can ignore social media because you think only high school and college students use social media, think again. Yes, it is true that social media is still much more popular with younger generations, but Boomers have shown a willingness to embrace social media and blogging.

There has been a belief that older people would stick with newspapers over the Web. Boomers are set to retire and become that older generation, and Boomers don’t appear like they’ll be on the sidelines watching the Web go by.

According to the study, baby boomers…

  • Increased reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67 percent year over year; nearly 80 times faster than Gen Y (1 percent)
  • Posted a 59 percent increase in using social networking sites—more than 30 times faster than Gen Y (2 percent)
  • Increased watching/posting videos on the Internet by 35 percent—while Gen Y usage decreased slightly (-2 percent)
  • Accelerated playing video games on the go via mobile devices by 52 percent— 20 times faster than Gen Y (2 percent)
  • Increased listening to music on an iPod or other portable music player by 49 percent—more than four times faster than Gen Y (12 percent)

Meanwhile, Gen Y…

  • Participation slipped in virtual worlds from 23 percent to 19 percent
  • Consumed no more video online than they did last year
  • Blogged and contributed to wikis less (it’s down from 35 to 33 percent)

The baby boomer results don’t surprise me. What does jump out at me is how the most technologically savvy generation we have seen to date is slowing their adoption. Could they be suffering from social fatigue or do they have enough technology in their lives already? Perhaps they are returning toward more face-to-face venues, which anecdotally, I have heard. It will be interesting to see how this progresses next year.

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