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Generations and the netiquette/etiquette gap

The backstory to today's column: this topic came up last week at a Social Media Club South Florida's event that focused on education and social media.

I wasn't there - I was at another event - but heard that some interesting topics came up. I called some of the panelists to talk to them about what they were seeing with this generation - and it struck a chord because it was similar message that I hear from teachers these days:

We've created a generation that looks great on paper, but has some trouble when it comes to real life.

That was the main message that stuck in my mind last week when I spoke with Rosanna Fiske, who teaches at Florida International University's communications school.

Her students are early adapters, finding the latest technological innovation "none of us can,'' said Fiske, who teaches advertising and public relations students.

"They do so well because they're connected -- they've literally been connected their entire lives,'' she said. "But what that's also done is create a whole issue with their social skills and face-to-face interaction.''

In some cases, it gets even worse.

Johnson & Wales' Maureen Lloyd-James told me she has some students who include texting language like LOL (that's laughing out loud) in college essays.

"I think in this day and age we presume students have a lot of computing knowledge -- but it's only in a specific area,'' she said.

Fiske counteracts this at FIU by emphasizing hands-on work. Some students have a class that features in-person interactions, so they must meet clients in addition to create websites, do writing, research and preparation.

Both Fiske and Lloyd-James emphasized that these assignments are about creating a different mind-set for students who have never thought about these things.

For Betsy Soler, a senior at FIU who is already working full-time, it was also about learning how to act as a professional -- something every college student must learn, regardless of their generation.

In her case, that has meant getting more comfortable with using the phone for work conversations, said Soler, who still puts "text-friendly'' next to her business phone number.

Soler, 19, thinks part of the issue is that because younger people are viewed more as "experts,'' they're being thrust into the working world at a much younger age.

"Professionals are approaching us a lot quicker than before,'' said Soler, who started college when she was 16.

What netiquette challenges do you see when working between generations? Share your stories in the comments below.

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Thanks for bringing attention to social media etiquette. This is a very important subject for professionals.

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