Friday, March 13, 2009

Communicating with Gen Y/Millennials

Boy, has it changed!  Remember when we were in college and we used to call home once a week?  And that was from a phone booth in the dorm, or a "hall phone" and if you were lucky, maybe a phone in your room.  But we sure got the lecture, that phone calls were expensive and to "keep it brief" etc.  MAYBE you'd write a letter or two to your parents, they'd write you, certainly, but the communication flow was limited and it was separated by days or even weeks....well those days are over!  Even in the short time from having our eldest in high school to when our youngest was just there (6 years between them)  Here's the difference:  we'd always have a "sense" of what was going on.  That's because they didn't have cell phones of their own and they'd use the land line, imagine that?  You could hear this side of the conversation or bits and pieces and you'd sense when there was movement or when there was going to be movement.  You might even know where they were headed before they told you.  Assuming of course that they'd tell you where they were going and with whom...  6 years later, it's all done on cell phones and/or the computer, and there's NO talking, it's just the tap tap tapping of texting or IMing.  It's like stealth bombers, one minute they're in their room and the next minute they're on the move and you're yelling after them, "where are you going?..." Since they've been in college, it's shifting daily!  Our daughter and son (year apart) started out their freshman years with phones (landlines) in their rooms.  Answering machines included.  They also got cell phones, and the "family plan" was just rolling out.  So I would talk to my kids daily.  Really.  I'd often get a phone call between classes.  As one or the other was walking to and from class.  Conversations would be brief, mostly an update on the roommate situation or a social highlight or an exchange about something going on at home...and if there was any "business" item that needed to be discussed you had an answering machine to leave a message on, "call home" or leave it on their cell.  No letters.  Maybe emails, and now... texting! With kids working and their personal email usuage left to the evenings and kids in college, neither of whom have land lines in their rooms and our recent grads don't have land lines in their apartments...the way we seem to be communicating is by text.  And for the record, my kids tell me, and their friends agree, that contrary to popular belief, kids don't text in abbreviations, they text in "full sentences", so there's none of this "r u" stuff.  It was popular in the IM days when they were in high school, but I'm told that the Gen Xers are the ones that run with the abbreviations..."Mom, there's T-9!"  And who knew what that was until I asked for a demonstration.  So try texting with T-9 or maybe you have a Blackberry or an iPhone, so you too can text in full words and maybe even full sentences.  Though texting isn't nearly as satisfying as a conversation, it's something, and after all, something is better than nothing!  I understand that high school kids use Facebook to communicate with each other, they don't even know each other's email addresses.  It's either that or texting on their cells.  As parents, it's best to keep up.  I know many of us are so reluctant to "go there."  But we've got to "get with the program" if we want to be able to communicate with our kids.  

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