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Home arrow Writings arrow Uncle Sam and the Generation Gap

Uncle Sam really wants to get to get to know today's kids. Millennials (or Generation Y, the Internet Generation, etc) are an "alien life force," according to a recent PowerPoint presentation delivered at the Navy's Annual Workforce Research and Analysis Conference. While the presentation delivers plenty of ironic comedy, it also does a great job of showing just how out of touch generations are with each other and with the world at large.

Uncle Sam isn't far off the mark on some of these. "Kids" do live in a more global environment than their parents did when they were younger. Their parents however, also live in that same global environment. Yes, it is true that Adam's best friend might be (gasp! OMG WTF?!?!? a Godless communist???) Chinese but I'm betting that Adam's dad has at least one international business associate. I'll wager Adam's parents don't complain too much about the business hours of the global marketplace either, considering they've got a heaping amount of debt to pay off.

According to the presentation, Adam also spends plenty of time online multitasking, IMing friends in the same room while the television is on with the volume down so he can hear the Black Eyed Peas through iTunes. This "continuous partial attention" highlights Generation Y's ignorance of the difference between the real world and the on-line world. I suppose Adam's parents "continuous partial attention," managing two cell calls, scrolling through their Blackberrys while gliding through a red light does mostly happen in the "real world."

The differences between the perception of how "kids" and "adults" view the ever evolving digital Earth notwithstanding, the Navy can't always be wrong. Social Networking websites have created a legion of "narcissistic praise junkies," I just don't think it's limited to the Millenial generation. You can find as many teenagers begging for pic comments on Myspace as you will find adults hoping that their boss will notice recent improvements in their work productivity. You'll find just as many adults hoping that their friends and co-workers will comment on how beautiful their children are as you will kids hoping for blog comments from peers about how no one's parents understand them. Deep down, we've all got a little bit of "narcissistic praise junkie" in us. The Web just made it easier to get our fix.

To prove that one hand of government doesn't always get what the other is up to, the presentation seems to lament the willingness of social networkers to put their entire lives on show. That would prove problematic if Seaman Adam blogged about classified information. I'm pretty sure intelligence agencies though, (along with nosy college recruiters and potential employers) would be thrilled about Adam's willingness to share his deepest secrets with the Net. That definitely saves all the pesky efforts of Total Information Awareness.

Uncle Sam might be having some trouble understanding the willingness of younger people to sign up, but I think it's got less to do with boomerang kids and helicopter parents. Adam might be coddled more than mom and dad or grandpa and grandma, but he also just might find the idea of one day firing missiles at his Chinese best friend slightly alienating

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