Disparity of Technology Between Generations

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, every generation has been born into a world more technologically advanced compared to the ones that came before them. This is understandable as the knowledge and technology we possess as humanity increases it becomes easier to attain new knowledge and technology. This leads to an almost constantly increasing acceleration rate of technological progress we make. The progress we achieved in the last 50 years is much greater than our first 50.000 years as a species. Consequently, this technological boom created a rift between generations and this rift has never been wider than today.  The younger generations (Millenials and Gen Z) who were born into the technological boom had the easiest time with this. On the other hand, older generations (Baby Boomers and Gen X) had a relatively tougher time adapting to the newer world compared to their children and grandchildren yet there are always exceptions. We must look deeper into the mindsets, psychologies and norms of these generations to thoroughly analyze these disparities. 

The younger generations’ relationship with modern technology has many ups and downs in itself. First, we have to acknowledge one of the most prominent elements of modern technology: the internet. Over the years of its establishment the internet created a global culture where distance does not matter. Especially young adults and teens are active in this global online culture as they give and take many things to and from the internet. Social media plays a large role in this online culture as it gives people a platform to share their life and hobbies but also thoughts and political ideologies. Another important point is that it created working fields where the majority of the people who make their living out of it are fairly young and they take part in an industry without anyone who came before them. Youtube created YouTubers, Twitch gave rise to streamers, Instagram was flocked by influencers and many more. This new way of life composing social media and online personalities is not all sunshine and flowers though. There are many social problems or even syndromes that came into existence after the invention of social media; cyber-bullying and online stalking only are purely internet-based problems. Sadly social media also furthered imposter syndrome and feelings of loneliness and self-hate/pity/doubt in many people. There was always someone with more followers or someone more beautiful. These problems affected the younger generations much worse as they were still growing as a person much faster compared to the older generations who for the most part had individuals who already figured out who they were.

Below is a graph about social media effects on teens made by Pew Research

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Limiting current modern technology to just the internet and social media when discussing the younger generation's relationship with technology would just be gullible though. Modern technology has so many other parts that many teens are greatly interested in. Coding, machine learning, graphic designing, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality are all still developing industries that will be shouldered by today's teens in the near future. Many schools are adding coding lessons to their curriculums generally starting from the 6th grade. Some elementary schools also started to give basic lessons on coding at least just to make kids familiar with the concepts. Schools are taking these steps to adopt them to the digitized world we know to live in. Overall be it  social media, the internet or other computer technologies the younger generation has a rather positive and embracing relationship with the new modern technologies while also acknowledging the negatives it brings.

The older generations’ relationship with technology is quite different from the younger generations’. Baby boomers who were born between 1945-1965 grew up in a world just recovering from the deadliest war in the world. Probably baby boomers along with the few alive members of the silent generation(1928-1945) are the only ones who truly understood the true horrors technology can bring if left unchecked by human morality. They are members of the most traditional generation today and are mostly skeptical about modern technology maybe because as they are already past their prime they do not think this knowledge would be useful to them, maybe they deem it unnecessary. Research on mobile phone and internet usage percentages among generations seems to support this statement as Baby Boomers and Silent generation have the lowest rates of usage. Although we should not forget that many inventors of our modern technologies belong to these generations but we will come to that later.

Generation X on the other has a different history. Later stages of the Cold War which they grew up in saw the peaks of technological advancement, dwarfing even World War 2. A good example would be microchips and Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law suggests that microchip technology would double its capacity every two years and this theory managed to be consistent throughout the Cold War. As microchips are key parts of personal computers this piece of information is really important to understand the relationship of Gen X and technology. Gen X saw the technologies they own become obsolete almost every two years. They always had to adapt to new technologies too frequently if they wanted to keep up with the pace of technological progress. That may have made them more critical about buying new technologies after living through the same situation many times. They also were the first ones to use many technologies that we still use advanced versions of today. PC’s, mobile phones and gaming consoles first made their debut when Gen X were just children.

Nonetheless adapting to modern technology was more of a choice for them than a necessity it is to the younger generations. Not everyone owned these technologies and frankly now owning them did not put them behind their peers in many job aspects at the time. It is not to say that owning a computer at the time had no advantages, it is just that it was possible to manage daily life and work-life without the assistance of computers. The ones that did not just own these technologies but especially cared about the development of these technologies though had the chance to write history. Truthfully even as the enthusiastic and skillful younger generations are about these technologies we just stand on the shoulders of giants who paved the way for us. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both Baby Boomers; being born in 1955 and they have contributed immensely to modern technology. Mark Zuckerberg can be seen as one of the fathers of social media and Elon Musk is trying to get us one step closer to future technology with his many corporations centered around tech. Both these important people belong to Gen X with many others who helped technology, programming and the digital world with their efforts. To summarize the older generations’ relationship with technology we can say that although they fall behind the younger generation on technology usage by quite a margin it would be foolish to consider them to be less capable than young people about technology with all the contributions that they made to modern technology.

Here is a graph about the technology usage rates among different generations conducted by Pew Research.

One of the last points we should talk about is the user growth rate of different technologies in different parts of history. Throughout history, as technologies emerge and become available to the general public people started to integrate these technologies into their daily lives. The rich and the elite were always the first to get their hands on these technologies but as time passed by costs dropped and eventually the middle-class and the working class became capable of owning these technologies as well. This shows us newer technologies manage to reach large masses of users in a much shorter period compared to the older ones. Of course, factors like household economics, production rate, marketing and availability of products are also really important; it seems that newer generations accepting nature and love for anything new also helps the case.


This photograph shows long it took for different technologies to reach 50 million users

To summarize all, we all have some relationships with technology no matter the generation. and it is an undeniable truth that as time progresses and new generations come into existence their attachment to technology constantly grows. The ups and downs of this situation are plentiful yet the positives always weigh a little heavier, as younger generations’ desire to use new technologies never fades. The older generations are a bit more skeptical and calculating because of the things they saw in their time yet many technologies do exist thanks to them. Old and young modern technology is a part of everyone's life and it will remain as so. (1) (2) (3) (4)

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