Saturday, March 02, 2013

the lazies vs. the know-it-alls

i think a major unappreciated generational divide in the online world is the reaction people have when they encounter a word or concept they don't know. older  people will generally ask, "what does that mean?" whereas younger people won't ask, they will search the internet to look it up.

to the younger people, the older people probably look lazy by asking rather than trying to figure it out for themselves. to the older people, the younger people probably look like know-it-alls, quietly googling up the answer and pretending they knew it all along.

i'm not sure where the dividing line is exactly. i'm definitely in the google it camp and i'm 43. i think the googlers go a bit older than me, but i'm not sure how far. and of course this is all a big generalization, so there are obviously individual counter-examples.

UPDATE (3/3/13): based on the comments, i realized that i should clarify this a bit. i wasn't thinking about how people react when they encounter a word or concept they don't know in the normal course of their life. i'm talking about a more specific scenario, what happens when people encounter something they are unfamiliar with while they are online. specifically, i was thinking of cases where that happens on either a blog or on facebook, some place where there is an ability for the reader to comment.

so, for example, say you're reading a facebook or blog post and come across a word like "derp" or a quote like "punch it, chewie", and assume that you didn't know what the word or phrase meant. some people would leave a comment asking what it means, and some would not. in my experience, older people are the only ones who leave those comments. younger people (and by that i am including people who are at least slightly older than me, which is still pretty old) tend to check google, find the answer, and then pretend they knew what it meant all along. that's the divide i'm talking about.

i should also add that i'm not trying to make a value judgment about either approach. there's nothing wrong with asking about something you don't know. and i don't think it's really know-it-all-y to quietly google up the answer. all i'm saying is that this does seem to be related to age and i haven't seen anyone else mention the pattern before.