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The internet generation gap is real and quite interesting

I had the chance to do some first hand “research” this weekend as I spent some time with a family member (he’s my half -brother, Dave, if you really need to know) who is, let’s just say, considerably younger than I am. We represent two very different age groups on the Internet spectrum and the experience opened my eyes to a few things that I thought would be good for all of us to think about.

hand in hand -  old@new, past@future!

Image by ChrisK4u via Flickr

So you have some context, there is about a 20-year difference in our ages. He is just at the start of his career as a true techie while I am still figuring out what I want to do when I grow up as a writer, business owner, business development professional, and all around good guy :-). With that in mind, we represent two very different points in time regarding the Internet and how we use it. Here are some of my observations.

Location based services – While I am barely sticking my toe in the water with Foursquare, Facebook Places, and more, Dave is fully immersed in Foursquare. He is a check-in junkie, though he has to be reminded to do so from his girlfriend more often than not, which makes me wonder just how involved he is. I asked if he ever gets deals and he said “It seems like wherever I check in there are deals all around but never at that place where I am.” Bummer. So why does he check in? He likes the badges. I was floored because I can’t tell you how many times I thought that was a silly idea.

Facebook – I am a medium Facebook user, if you just look at time spent with the service. Dave, on the other hand, not so much. He’s there but he updates infrequently and I think there is a level of “uncoolness” from the tech side about getting caught up in Facebook stuff. In the meantime, he has kept up with my kids’ sports exploits through FB, so he sees the value for certain things. I am becoming less enamored with FB personally, but I am not sure if that is just industry fatigue or a realization that there are other things to do with my time.

Twitter – I spend a bit of time on Twitter, but I am starting to see it almost like TV. There is a lot of junk there, but you can occasionally find something of value that will keep you coming back. Also, it’s a huge time killer, which is something that is not so good. Dave could care less about Twitter. He follows a few things for deals but never updates and thinks that most of it is crap. Interesting perspective and I wonder how widespread that feeling is amongst his generation.

iPhone vs. Android – This was interesting because Dave has an iPhone through his work and I have an Android through choice, due to timing. In other words, I went the Android route to stay with Verizon during the pre-iPhone age. I have wondered whether I would switch, but that’s an ongoing battle. We both agreed that the iPhone is a much smother UI, but he did miss the Android tech factor of being able to experiment. Interestingly enough, it was our talk that made me look at how to really use the DroidX and I saw just how much functionality I had decided to leave unused. Today I am much happier with my Android device but still have some iPhone envy (particularly around battery life).

Texting – This one is easy. He does a lot more texting than I do. I don’t do much at all unless I am forced to, but Dave texts to communicate. Interesting difference and one that I totally chalk up to our age difference.

Research – I was real quick to look up anything that I didn’t know by using my phone. I just like to have answers. Dave was perfectly willing to watch me struggle to “be informed” and stay out of the fray. For being so “connected” I think he enjoyed being “disconnected” as well.

Now, I am not silly enough to go running around proclaiming that I uncovered any secrets about the great unknowns around Internet usage for the masses. I know this was just a few days with someone who looks at tech differently than I do.

What it did do, though, is point out to me just how different each individual Internet user, be it mobile or desktop, truly is. Even looking at groups in a particular age bracket and drawing wide conclusions about their general usage is bad to do. I am not sure if there has ever been a more personalized medium known to man. Not everyone will do one thing or another because of common demographics.

In fact, I suspect that the differences among people in the same age groups are even more pronounced than they are from younger to older. I know how many people my age look at the Internet, especially business owners who have been around for a while. They have built their business a certain way using certain techniques and don’t have the time to invest in the latest and greatest. That’s where they stumble a bit, but I have found helping these folks are the most rewarding, which is why I do what I do.

At any rate, I found this whole insight into a younger Internet user’s mind to be very enlightening. I am not feeling like there have been any “A-Ha!” moments, but there didn’t need to be. What needed to happen was that my eyes were opened to just how unique we all are in our Internet use and, as a marketer, I can never feel like I have it figured out.

Why? Because I don’t think anyone does. What about you?

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