The publication this week of Outsell’s reportprovides a timely reminder of the Benjamin Button principle – that rather than a Facebook generation breaking through to overwhelm the Luddism of the baby boomer generation, a reverse effect may indeed be taking place.
“It is not safe to generalize about younger people vs. older people when it comes to information habits, attitudes, and preferences
...Baby boomers appear to be a bit more savvy than younger generations when it comes to successfully exploiting search engines and navigating to sources of information that they need for work.”
In Age shall not weary them! we drew attention to last year’s Ithaka research on the behaviour of US academics. Not only were there no differences in digital research behaviour, but if anything older professors were utilising digital media more than their younger colleagues, including social networking sites. Even if this was a function of seniority and tender security (thus more research time) it was a timely corrective to the ageist generationalism that has characterised internet commentaries.
Outsell’s study garnered 5,660 responses from knowledge workers in the corporate, education, government, and healthcare sectors. Approximately 500 of the respondents were located in the UK, with the remainder located in the US.
Overall, when performing this analysis, what struck Outsell were the similarities between the generations more so than the differences. If there was a difference however, it reflected a counter-intuitive (at least to traditional commentators) trend. Outsell’s research indicates that age is directly related to success searching for information, both external and internal to the organization i.e. older knowledge workers are better at finding things on the internet than their younger counterparts.
All good stuff – but there is a serious point. In a culture of youth, but a society with an increasing number of active older people, the internet provides equally a means of harnessing knowledge, opinion and power for the babyboomers as well as the Facebookers. This may be an important feature of our social and political landscape over the next few decades.