Dealing with Change is Necessary for Digital Immigrants

Without understanding and interacting with digital natives, digital immigrants may never truly ‘get it’

By the time I was 21 years old, I had already lived in 21 places.

On my 21st birthday, I was living onboard the USS Enterprise, which was based in Subic Bay, in the Philippines. By day I was a nuclear engineer running electrical systems for the ship, and by night I was a reporter and producer for the Armed Forces Network.

Today, 35 years later, I still like change and I still love media and technology. In a few months, my family and I will be moving to a new home. It will be the 35th place I have called home over my 55 years on the planet.

While the rest of my family, my wife in particular, have trepidation about the move, I am excited. The process involves new technology, new building materials, new paint colors and new tiles. Needless to say, I am having a ball.

I will admit though, that I am out of practice for changing something so big. I have lived in my current home longer than any other place by far and am finding myself feeling sad about the things I will miss. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in this house for 17 years, or maybe it’s just that I am 55 years old and making such a big change. Any way you put it, change is hard.

As a professional consultant, I see the struggle with change every day. Every one of our 23 Gold Member Systems is run by someone who was born before 1980 – the magical cutoff for being classified as a digital immigrant vs. a digital native.

No matter how much I like change, and how much I’ve learned about online publishing since the inception of the Internet, the fact is that I will always be a digital immigrant.

Every Gold Member System operator born before 1980, like myself, will always be someone who learned to use the Internet and social media as a second set of skills that came later in life.

There have been a number of books written on this topic. Grown Up Digital – How the Net Generation is Changing the World by Don Tapscott , among other must-reads, has affirmed to me that I will never fully “get it”, as my 20-something sons often remind me.

As a side note, I’d like to credit my two sons, the youngest almost 21 and the oldest 23, for making me as hip as I am. Without their influence and my desire to learn how they interact with technology, I would be far out of touch.

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Digital Native Roundtable at the Mequoda Summit East 2011

Two digital natives on the Mequoda Research Team, Amanda MacArthur and Patrick Hughes, have committed to putting together a 90-minute documentary for the Mequoda Summit East 2011. This video program is designed to make sure old folks like me and other Gold Member executives have a chance to spend time with people who are digital natives, that aren’t family members or friends.

In the process, Amanda and Patrick are putting together content to parallel and document the info from Grown Up Digital.

I know enough to realize that it’s incredibly important that we as media executives, who plan to be in the work force for another five to 10 years, discover that digital natives and digital immigrants are different. For executives planning to be in the work force even longer, digital natives will make up the bulk of the US population in 15-20 years.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about digital natives, watching videos and listening to experts on the topic. And even though we may think we understand digital natives, our thoughts fall short until we talk to them, learn how they use personal and mass media and how this all impacts how they see the world.

Three facts about digital natives from Grown Up Digital

Digital Native Fact #1: Baby Boomers spend approximately 22.4 hours watching TV per week. Young kids, ages 12-17, spend that much time on the Internet.

Digital Native Fact #2: Digital natives want freedom in everything they do – from freedom of choice to freedom of expression.

Digital Native Fact #3: Digital natives look for corporate integrity and openness when deciding what to buy and where to work.

This article serves as a brief preview to our Digital Native Roundtable, which will premier live at our Mequoda Summit East 2011. The documentary will be coming together over the next few months as we firm up more pieces of this interesting addition to the fall Summit.

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