I live with a Millennial, who has grown a new body appendage in the shape of an iPhone. Fingers continuously fly over the face of it at the speed of light. It is only detached when taking showers or playing the piano. So Why does this person often fail to respond to my texts immediately …. or even within the hour …. or same half day (!)?
A certain other Millennial, who lives under my roof during school holidays, is glued to another iProduct, consuming Reddit, Facebook, Youtube, StumbleUpon, streaming sports of all varieties and much more. So Why does this person rarely respond, react or acknowledge any emails I send them on this device?
None of this fits my world view. Why do they do these things? What is their alternate world view? They are chill. I am OCD. They are practical. I am too fussy. They don’t want to waste their time. My need for response is completely unnecessary. These accusations are flung about following unmet expectations.
None of that advances anyone’s understanding. Why do we have different expectations?
I offer up one theory. It’s still in embryonic form, but I’m bringing it out for a test drive:
We “Boomers” learned how to use email and text messaging, long after we had learned and conformed to certain etiquette rules and protocols surrounding land-line phones and paper mail service. As we expanded our communications toolkit and embraced new technologies we tried to bring the old rules of etiquette with us to the new platforms. Remember emails from the early days, that started with “Dear ….”? Remember the days, when you tried to consume and process every single email, page and voicemail? It was easy when you had no more than a handful a day, right? We’ve had to adjust along the way. Norms for politeness and responsiveness have morphed. Much has been sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and sheer manageability of volumes. Nevertheless, we have evolved new norms and do our best to adhere to certain understood conventions.
What about the Millennials? It occurs to me that we have simply assumed they would adopt our rules and norms. Did we ever teach them these rules? They have been using these tools since the day they learned how to read and write, but did they get instructed in the unwritten norms that went with them? They were adopting the technology faster than we were. They were running ahead of us and our adult protocols. They would never consider trying to consume every piece of communication that comes their way. The volume has been out of reach from Day 1 for them. Maybe they have gone way beyond us and found a less cluttered worldview in advance of us? They had less to shed, to easily assimilate a world with more inputs, volumes, alerts, notifications, messages, and more. We pay lip service to simplicity and ‘Less is More’, but expect to be able to control what is cut out. The Millennials are not waiting for us, they are doing it!
Why are they not responding to me? Maybe, because I was filtered out. If it’s real important, I’ll try again. I’m still trying to get responses from these guys …. aarrrgghhh! All the while I’m wondering if they might be onto something?