When I accepted an invitation to read and comment on Iggy Pintado’s new book Connection Generation (Amazon affiliate link), my expectation – based mainly and very subjectively on what I had observed of the author’s communications on Twitter – was that the book would provide some fresh insight into how social media fit in our world, especially in the business context.
In fact, although the term “social media” is used, that is more in passing than with any focus, and is incorporated, with other related terms, into a general category of “Connection Technologies”, which the author describes in his helpful glossary of terms (“Quick Reference” section – pp 241-245) as:
“online tools and applications that promote interaction with people, messages and ideas through searching, sharing, collaborating, participating, sharing, and networking through user-generated content. Also known as social media, new media, Web 2.0, and Now media.”
And his story is not even so much about the any of those technologies as about a dramatic change in “connectedness” of people, which change the author dates from the mid 1990s, pinpointing 1995 as the “tipping point” year when Netscape Navigator (hands up those who remember Netscape Navigator) “caught the imagination of the online world…” (p 21).
The adoption and use of these “connection technologies” is now so widespread, the author argues, that rather than (or as well as?) thinking of “generations” in the now familiar terms of Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers, etc, we should understand that there is a more overarching or more extensive mode of the “Connection Generation”.
(The concept is not unrelated to, but quite different from that denoted by the similar sounding “Connected Generation” which has been around for several years but seems to have been more narrowly focused, from a chronologically determined viewpoint: as for example in a 2004 BusinessWeek Online story on about connecting with “today’s youth”.)
The “Connection Generation” book is subtitled “How connection determines our place in society and business” and opens appropriately with a chapter more sociological than technological in its frame of reference, highlighting various aspects of how people are connected. This is followed by another short chapter, on the development of communication technology from the beginning of communication between humans, up to the emergence of the “Connection Generation”:
In the years following 1995, anyone who lived on this planet with access to a communication or connection technology device – regardless of age or ability – attained automatic membership of the Connection Generation. (p 27)
As with any book, different readers will find different sections more interesting, from their perspective, than others. My personal view is that, for anyone who, like me, is interested personally or professionally in communicating with people about the new technologies, how they affect us and how we can engage with and through them, the most absorbing section of the book is in Chapters 5 to 9, which examine characteristics and behaviours of the various types of connectors the author presents: Basic Connectors, Passive Connectors, Selective Connectors, Active Connectors and Super Connectors. He uses real-life examples of these types, from family members and other people he knows personally, through to US President Barack Obama.
Subsequent chapters are on various aspects of working with the concept of the “Connection Generation” and contain a range of illustrations and opinions on what I would call social media or social networking platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
The author shares many fascinating snippets of information from his personal experience and observation and from his research. One example which struck me, given that I have lately been focusing on ways to communicate more effectively with the Boomer generation about social media for business, was a reference to a research report of 2008 from UCLA that, in Pintado’s summary “found that web-savvy adults aged fifty-five to seventy-six registered a twofold increase in brain activation when compared with those who were not”. (p 237)
From the layout of the book and the extensive use of mnemonics, summaries and other learning tools, it is clear that the author has been keen not just to tell a story about the phenomenon of the “Connection Generation”, nor simply to help people to make sense of what has transpired and is still developing, but to provide practical ways for readers who wish to apply the information in their personal, business and professional relationships to do so more effectively. That he does this in a very conversational way, continually illustrated with real-life examples, should prove attractive to many readers. No dry, theoretical tome, this.
While acknowledging some probably inevitable bias on my part about the significance of the new technologies in business, government and virtually every aspect of our lives, I am continually surprised by the number of people who seem reluctant or even actively resistant to making more use of the technologies. I suspect that only the most determinedly technophobic among them could read this book and remain so reluctant or resistant. A good present for the friend who says with a rather boastful smile “Oh, I’m a real Luddite, you know”?
Or indeed for anyone who might need some reassurance that you don’t need to be a Gen Y (not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂 ) to be connected.