Technology, Mindfulness & The Generation Gap

Technology, Mindfulness & The Generation Gap

The generation gap (as referred to when we find some level of misunderstanding when talking with someone outside of our own) in our world today has become not only a misunderstanding but a huge detriment to our GenY’rs (millennials) and possibly to all generations that follow!

GenX’rs (1965-1980) arrived on this planet to find the ease of communication, time for social interaction and the lack of technology in the home. This allowed them to learn and experience the skill sets around building personal relationships, putting the work in to find information they were seeking, the ability to stay focused for extended periods of time and the wonderment that are Baby Boomers know all to well, the ability to be present, in the moment, and fully engaged with what is going on around them. 

As our GenX’rs grew up technology became more and more accessible and as young people, they were able, in most cases, to grasp the concepts and learn new skill sets that have allowed them to move into the technological age with a level of comfort.

In 1981 (1981-1996) our GenY’rs, or better known as the “Millennials” arrived on the scene. They bounced into this world with technology at their fingertips. They have zero historical knowledge of a time without technology, other than stories from their parents. They know not of a time where conversations were learning moments or when opening a book was information research. They were, from birth, exposed to far more information than their brain is capable of processing and this information was so accessible that they did not have to do the work to obtain it. Their GenX’r parents didn’t recognize any detriment to this as they had a different way of being exposed to technology. They didn’t recognize that this generation gap was actually harmful to their children… until now!

In the late 70’s the human attention span was approximately 34 minutes. Today, the human attention span is less than 8 seconds. This is less than a Goldfish!

We watched as our Millennials entered college, and the workforce, with an expectation that life should be easy, information should be immediate and that they would be immediately successful. This was an illusion that having technology from birth had created. They quickly found that they couldn’t cope. They found they struggled with depression, anxiety and social awkwardness which did not match that of their parents. Their parents couldn’t understand what these kids needed, nor could teachers or employers. We watch them flailing through life like a fish out of water with no idea why! Let me put some misconceptions to bed here. This generation IS NOT LAZY, they are not weak and they are not consumed with entitlement. They are, however, struggling in a time when solidarity and information is the immediate norm and their brains have not yet evolved to a point where this is easily managed. 

Think of it like this… You own a 1967 VW bug. It’s cute and fun but only has a maximum speed of 55 miles an hour. You are being forced to drive this vehicle on roads where the minimum speed is 65 miles per hour. You stress and worry about trying to keep up, to stay safe, to get to your destination without negative effects but no matter how much worry and stress you put into this, you just can’t keep up!

Our Millennials live this example, each and every day. They don’t understand why, with so much technology at their fingertips, life is so difficult and painful for them. We, as the older generations, don’t understand either. We label them as weak because we see them riddled with anxiety over what seems to us to be simple experiences. We see them as lazy because we expect them to know how to work for something when they only know how to push a button to gain it. We view them as entitled because we lived in a time when nothing came quickly or easily for us yet they have it all, at their fingertips. Our perception of this generation has done nothing positive for them, in fact, we are part of the problem.

Our sweet, wounded Millennials see themselves as “different” and try to find ways to “fix” themselves. They reach for therapy sessions and medication. They try to communicate their feelings to bosses, educators and parents but have no idea what to say. They can’t articulate the problem because they have no idea what it is! The problem, in the simplest terms, is that the human brain is not capable of processing the enormous amounts of information that intrude on our thoughts, almost at the speed of sound. This will not always be the case because, as humans, we evolve with each generation. Our ability to grow and adapt to changing environments is in our DNA but this TAKES TIME. Future generations will see less and less issues deriving from this massive explosion of information flying at them. Our dear Millennials we're simply the first on the scene and will spend their lives suffering because of it. There is only one “fix” for this and we (the older generations) are NOT doing it!

In order to help our Millennials, and future generations, adapt as best they can to this brain overload we need to be helping them calm their minds. We need to teach them how to better process all of this information and we need to stop beating them up over their issues. They are not at fault.

Overcoming the crippling effects of anxiety, depression, social and personality afflictions and calming the underlying cause of over thinking seems like a daunting task when in reality it is far more simple than most may realize. 

As a GenX’r, and those older, we know a time when taking time meant something. We need to teach this to our children, now and going forward. We need to help them to experience what a calm mind feels like and we can do that with simple mindfulness techniques.

“Sleep On It” is a phrase that immediately comes to mind. It was common when I was growing up to be told by someone wiser than I, to “sleep on it” when I had something heavy in my thoughts. I am sure my older generation readers can relate to this. The Millennials reading this probably have never heard this or at least don’t know what it truly means. It means to “take time”. Allow your thoughts to focus on that which you are trying to figure out and let them resonate with the available words or actions that may be needed. Taking time to make a decision can be a foreign concept to our current generations and that makes me sad. Sad that they don’t know the bliss that comes with thoughtful words or actions. Sad that they don’t know how to stop in the moment and just be present without anxiety, worry or fear.

Mindfulness is the act of stopping in a moment and being completely present. Being aware of what is happening around us and taking time to understand and process our thoughts. This is a skill set that all of us born before 1980 have although many don’t utilize it regularly. We take it for granted, knowing it is there when we need to tap into it. We know the art of being able to take a minute to consider something or giving a big decision some thought, to sleep on it. The trick is teaching this to our younger generations because not only is it worth the effort but our children and grandchildren deserve it and we owe it to them!

Mindfulness practices give the practitioner the ability to calm the mind, to experience deep thought and to achieve positive results from good decisions. As a parent and aunt to many Millennials and now the grandparent to a Generation Alpha, I collaborated with my sister Vickie, also a mother and aunt to these Millennials, on creating mindfulness practices just for the struggles these generations experience. We have seen great success and welcome you to come and join us at where we can give you some great techniques to help you, teach at home to your children and grandchildren, support in the workplace with your employees, to teach to your leaders and to stop the catastrophic effects of the information highway. Using mindfulness techniques will allow us to keep our cell phones and not lose our minds!

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