The Obama Generation

Yesterday, Stephanie Agresta brought nine tech and business students from Iowa’s Luther College (blog) to meet me at our Foster City office for some Q&A about the business world they’re about to enter. This day, Jan 20th was the first day Obama has been in office, and he’s already made some significant changes within his first hours in the oval office.

We had an interesting conversation, we talked about creating career websites, starting blogs, and how to represent yourself in a professional way. We discussed how sharing online is likely permanent and you should assume your boss, your mother, and your future wife/husband will read whatever you say online. How they should start preparing for the job market, and some practical tips to use social networks to find jobs.

These juniors and seniors are about to enter the workforce, and they’ll have experienced this in a different way then any previous generation has. What’s so different? they’ll always have been in the workforce and known that:

  • Their President was always their Facebook friend.
  • Their President was always the top Twitter user as far as they can remember.
  • Their President has always addressed them on Saturday mornings on YouTube.
  • They’ll be connected to their friends to discuss topics and join causes in social networks.
  • The “Mall” won’t just be about shopping but also refer to the Washington Mall.
  • Blackberry’s are the new scepter of power, and a status symbol.
  • Soon, they’ll remember how they can voice their opinion on websites like the Whitehouse.gov isn’t just a destination site, but will become a place to have two-way conversations with peers and the administration.

    Not all of these things are always cheery for them, as they graduate the impact of the recession may cause them to compete against others that are far more experienced and may be able to outbid them. They may understand what ‘change’ and ‘hope’ means but may not remember what the country is trying to escape.

    Back to you, what are the other characteristics of this Obama Generation especially as it ties back to the internet?

    • There is a story in the Washington Post this morning about the technology black hole the Bush’s left behind.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/21/AR2009012104249.html?hpid=topnews

    • I saw that too Sarah, good find. I wonder what percent of American homes are more sophisticated than that the Washington Post described at the White House.

    • We are a “no network TV” family. We live on Maui but do not have cable to watch TV. We only watch DVD’s. However, we do use the cable for INTERNET.

      Now here’s our story related to this post. We watched Obama’s inauguration via live stream on their official blog! that was pretty cool!

      🙂 Liza

    • I think it’s gone beyond being in a closed system for me. I’m surprised not just by the blind lust of business to pimp social media and their concomitant belief that they can do so without changing anything. I Twittered with one of the few archaeologists who uses that tool about how I wished I could follow digs via Twitter. He said archaeologists are very resistant to using tools like this, at least social media tools, though they sometimes use very high-tech mapping tools, as best exemplified by Kent Weeks’s Theban Mapping Project.

      I wonder if we’re fooling ourselves, that many (most?) people would rather pretend that the conversation that is effecting them doesn’t exist, even when doing so materially harms them.

      Am I being negative? Getting laid off by ANOTHER company that hired you to get them all social media-y then refused to let you do that will do that to you.

      *angry sobbing*

      Better now.

      *strained, tear-streaked smile of false bravery* (LOL)

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    • – The obama generation will use smart-phones to organize their transportation, carpooling or finding the nearest, cheapest, battery recharge stations for the new generation of vehicles.

      – Taking a couple years off before or after college to participate in a new age of national service will be normal. Service organized and enabled by websites like usaservice.org and groundcrew.us

      -personal monetary value will continue to decrease as this generation’s primary measure of net worth. social capital gained by recruiting, volunteering, and donating to causes will emerge as an alternate measure of trust and value. Allocate resources, e.g., housing, health care, and transportation will be based off this digital social capital.

    • I totally agree with the blackberry being the status symbol of power. Since teenager I have loathed those in the corporate world that are able to check their email and respond instantly.

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    • Jeremiah,

      Thank you very much for the mentioning LutherLive on your blog along with our Q&A this past week.

      One characteristic of being a part of the Obama Generation that ties with the Internet and interests me is using social media as a tool to help better prepare myself in the future. Some of the advise you gave us, for instance, is something that I have already taken advantage of. Just as our President is becoming more interactive virtually with us, we can make ourselves more available to future employers. A skill that may set us apart can be using online media to further develop a relationship that influences the way we are perceived the same way Obama improved his status online.

      Just as Obama has led us towards a new feeling of hope and change, he is well on his way of forming a new platform of interaction among this nation that has ceased to exist. I am excited to hear about the implementation and the opportunities it will bring.

    • As an european, I hope the US obama generaration will be more cosmopolitan orientated. Social web applications will bring the continents closer together.

      Jeremiah,
      As a job seeking student, I’m wondering what you told them (about “blogs, and how to represent yourself in a professional way” and “tips to use social networks to find jobs”).

    • They wont take anything for granted.
      “yes we can” was much more than a pitch. Changing things will mostly be a matter of connecting with the right people in the right place.
      This will lead to a more fluid, collaborative world, drawback being even more complexity.

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    • This is a another proof point of the two-way online conversations the next generation of our customers will come to expect of the businesses they patronize and organizations they belong to.

      My favorite quote yesterday was from http://tinyurl.com/52bhzk that “An accessible company means a more trustworthy company”.

      That is the new normal way of doing business.

      For those of us who believes stressful economic times can be a strong driver for innovation, I’d expect many businesses will begin to go where their future customers expects them to be.

    • I’m not so sure you want to go so far as to say we are the “Obama Generation”, simply because it undermines youth who won’t be entering the workforce or won’t be eligible to vote until Obama’s out of office. I would argue that instead of this being about Obama and the next 4 or 8 years, there’s a larger paradigm shift that’s taking place, one that is being facilitated as a result of social technologies.

      To frame this blog post, check out Nickelodeon’s message boards. Earlier in the fall, they ran a “Kids Pick the President” campaign, in which 2+ million kids voted for either Obama or McCain (Obama won). If you read the forum today, there are active threads where elementary school children (I’m making the assessment based on their spelling), are candidly discussing our new president.

      What they’re saying has nothing to do with political views and their arguments have very little substance or relevance to the recession. However, if you read threads like this (http://tinyurl.com/b6m8ub), one can’t help but smile. One poster writes that Obama won because:

      1.he is smart-
      2.he made histroy of first black person-
      3.he is the best man in the world-
      4.obama promesied to lower taxes and gas-
      5.us kids love him

      There is nothing on those discussion boards that mention Facebook, Twitter, blogs, the new WhiteHouse website, or really anything Internet-related. And that’s precisely the point.

      Today, we use technology as a means of differentiating generations. However, it’s really the attitudes that the the technology is reinforcing that matter in the end. As a representative of the “Obama generation” I could care less whether he ever @’s me on Twitter. I could care less whether he writes on my wall. I don’t even care if he never uploads a Youtube video ever again.

      What matters to me is having a leader who is authentic and willing to openly communicate, whether it be online or offline. This goes for ALL leaders whether it be the President of the United States or President of a Fortune 500 company.

    • Obama shows us the importance of the interpersonal speech. Of course he leverages the effect with social media, but obama is a speaker!

    • Provided that this out-of-control Congress doesn’t demolish the US economy, the mainstreaming of Social Media technology *will* bring about massive changes.

      I am hesitant to lay these changes at the feet of Obama, however, since Howard Dean and Ron Paul used the same technologies to build passionate followings. In fact, if you took online polls seriously Ron Paul won *all* of the debates.

      Obama’s success came from using the tools in a very integrated way to avoid getting pinned-down on any substantial issue and creating a persona that enabled people to project themselves, their problems & needs, onto his avatar. Only a few days into this new presidency we still do not really know who Obama is. Is he broadly authentic, or is it all sizzle and no steak?

      I suspect that we shall soon find out, much to our detriment. Not through any fault of Obama’s – but because the career politicians in Washington (many of whom have been in elected office nearly as long as Obama has been alive) will not play second fiddle.

      Inside the Beltway Power matters more than Popularity.

    • i think what obama is doing is something the government should have done long ago. everything having weekly youtube addresses to communicating through people on twitter on facebook. as we continue to see the user base rise across all social media platforms i think communication through them by the government is not only going to be beneficial but essential. im curious to see where we will be in 20 years with social media and politics/government.

      jacob

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    • I know I’m an outlier here, but I really want to know, short of making people feel good, what the point of comments on Whitehouse.gov would be. We all agree, I think, that we’d never advise a client to use these social media tools without an objective. What is the objective here? The president cannot act on feedback received through the White House blog. And considering the vitriol present on most political blogs, we’d have to assume that the White House blog would be moderated, yes? How many paid government employees do we want to dedicate to this task? And wouldn’t the fact that it is moderated lead to charges of bias? The YouTube address is good, but I’m pretty sure Bush had all of his available by podcast for a while. There is a difference between using these channels as a natural extension of communications and expecting some kind of exchange/feedback loop to take place. The former is smart, the latter is as impractical as it is unwise (and short circuits the Constitution: contact your Reps and Senators for problems, folks).

      I’ve expanded on this thought in a post up on Media Bullseye. Thoughtful post, but I just don’t see the logical practical application.

      Jen

    • Nikki Van Dusen

      It will be interesting to see how governments, which are traditionally closed information systems, deal with all this openness.

    • One additional point to the Washington Post piece your first commenter, Sarah, pointed to. It’s been my experience that this technology gap is endemic to both non-profits and governments: anywhere that dollars are scarce. Missouri–where I worked in politics and government in the ’90s–didn’t even have its voter file computerized until somewhere around 1996; many counties were still working off of handwritten voter registration cards as their voter rolls.

      This technology gap has more to do with expending scarce resources than anything else. Sure, it makes for a sensational story but really it comes down to where taxpayer (or contributor) dollars are being spent. Same holds true for non-profits–if you contribute to a charity, you want to know your money is being spent on finding a cure, not making sure everyone in the office has new Macs. Yes, there’s a balance, but I’d argue that most people don’t see the balance. They see the bottom line.

      Just my .02.

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    • @Jen good points. executive order is still part of a process dictated by constitution. That’s where the obama generation’s conversation is relevant.

      Characteristics… hmm…
      I’m hoping the so-called, “obama generation” sees sustainability as a path or indication of our abilities to harness digital. Let’s also hope they’ll focus on more than sustaining.

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