Gen Alpha and the desire to be current vs. considered

(Originally posted to LinkedIn)

This morning, an interesting thing happened. Well. My use of the word ‘interesting’ here is fairly broad…

I noticed that I’d made a mistake in an over-excited tweet I’d posted last night, and the familiar clench of annoyance hit me right in the stomach.

I’m in the older end of the amorphous ‘millennial’ group. We were raised without social media being prevalent until the explosion of MySpace in 2003. Yes, you can argue that there were a few early starters before this, but that’s really when things went mainstream. When we graduated from MSN Messenger to a proper, open social network. And I was 18 by then.

We were a generation advised never to delete things. Posts and comments lived on the Internet forever. We were told to be careful, and that what we posted online would impact and affect the way employers, partners and basically EVERYONE would view us in the future.

And so. There’s this weird juxtaposition I feel when I make a mistake in a tweet. Because I’m acutely aware of the impact of my social presence on my reputation and job, I’m keen to get things ‘right’. My irritation in misspelling a word is beyond rational. I’ll update a blog post several times if it’s still not quite right. But I’m also aware of the whole ‘don’t edit’ mantra that was drummed in to me via every social media guru’s blog out there as I was starting my career. It’s a tricky thing to balance.

The next generation; our Gen Z, is suffering an even greater tension in this area.

On one hand, capturing the moment, in all its unfinished, unpolished glory, is more important than presenting something perfectly. There’s a craving to be experimental, to test and edit and play. We explored this for a pitch recently, and that message came through loud and clear, from younger men and women from the UK, Russia, China and the US.

On the other hand, the presentation of a perfect life, filtering, posing, is more prevalent than ever.

Yes, these two trends can converge; you can be in continual beta when it comes to how you produce social output, while also being meticulous about what you shoot.

But if the conflicting desire to be ‘current’ versus ‘considered’ is something that started with my generation, and is becoming ever more challenging to the next – where will we see this go when it comes to ‘Generation Alpha’ (babies born from 2010 onwards)?

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