I heard an interesting phrase this week at a Customer event I was lucky enough to participate in with one of our partners. One of the people I was chatting with used the phrase AOG, or “Always On Generation” to describe millennials.
He aptly described a generation that had never known anything but constant connection – 3G, 4G, LTE, Wi-Fi etc. are all more important to them than almost anything else – and this troubled him.“Short attention spans resulting from quick interactions will be detrimental to focusing on the harder problems and we will probably see a stagnation in many areas.” —Alvaro Retana, distinguished technologist, HP
I have 3 kids who are part of this demographic and yes, they are addicted to being connected. They actually had an argument the other night over who used an unfair share of the bandwidth from AT&T that caused us to be throttled for the rest of the billing cycle (that happens at 5GB by the way). At that point our discussion turned to the importance being present in conversations. I find I have to repeat myself more often that I’d like because my kids are listening to music or carrying on text conversations with multiple people simultaneously. I have to remind them of the rules of etiquette and when it is appropriate to use electronic devices.
But I digress, it turns out Pandora was our culprit because I was listening while driving. I actually don’t think is a problem at all, except for the additional cost.
Depending on whom you talk to, AOG is either a positive, amazing group with a leg-up on the previous generations, or a dismal disgrace. But more and more studies are showing that the Always On Generation will be a step ahead by 2020.
Is “Always On” a Bad Thing?
To begin, I think many people – myself included – other than the under 25 demographic fall into the AOG, including my employees, my parents and many others I know. I think anything that makes life easier gets consumed by more people than just the “young whippersnappers.”
As a teenager I, like most other kids, had a curfew (I only missed it once by the way). My parents would sit home and worry about my safety until I miraculously returned home each night, just before midnight.
I remember one night I arrived home 10 minutes before midnight and my father was putting shoes on and getting his keys. I asked him why, and his response was, “I heard an ambulance and thought it must be you, so I was going to go and check.”
We can dive into his worry issues some other time, but imagine if he could have called, or had received a text that I was on my way home and was fine. Think of the ease I have as a parent that my parents never had. I usually know where my kids are, and can almost always find them and communicate with them.
I think the safety issues go even further: A car’s broken down and the kids need help. Travel is cancelled or delayed. They can even use the Uber app I have installed on their phones when they need a safe ride and I am not around. I think these are all points in the AOG column.
Will you take me so I can text?The traditional quest to get a driver’s license at 16 is on the wane, as a generation hooked on texting, Facebook, and being driven around by parents no longer sees independent mobility as critical to their social lives. Just 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, down from 44.7 percent in 1988. – The Washington Post
Is there balance anymore?
Some say that a bad economy is a great equalizer for competition. All the bad companies didn’t make it so all of our competitors are high quality. Because companies are easier for customers to contact, we protect the ability to compete in the economy.
There will be some who argue that this destroys life balance – and I am not sure I can dispute that – but I do know the security of having control over the ability for a customer to find and communicate with me is another plus for the AOG.
AOG Brought Me Freedom from My Desk
I also believe this capability has untethered me from my desk and my office.
Think of the freedom of having a morning conference call from the lake, from the coffee shop or even from the plane (at some expense of course). Another plus for AOG.
I had to drive around Boston this week. Unfamiliar with the city, I used Google maps and it was easy.
I remember in the old days arriving at the rental car counter and being handed a map to use to navigate new cities, while driving, and not get lost. I can assure you my trip to the airport was safer and easier in Boston than it ever was before AOG.
Bringing People Together
I have a large, very close family. Of my 6 siblings, one has moved to Maryland, one has moved to Florida and one has moved to Korea. We stay in touch constantly. FaceTime, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, text messages, calls. We experience each other and stay close, and it makes a huge difference.
I wonder if they had moved away without this technology if we would have been able to stay as close to them as I can today. Another plus in the AOG column.
Are AOG Better Multi-Taskers?
I have read that technology makes us better multi-taskers and makes our brains more agile. It certainly gives us access to more information than ever before.
Side-Benefits of the AOG
- Photos Galore – I have pictures of my kids, my family, and my extended family, that I would never ever have at my fingertips without AOG.
- Greater Influence – I have the chance to influence more people with broader reach than other before.
- Smarter Shopping – I have the ability to review companies I do business with from anywhere.
- Automate Mundane Tasks – I cannot image life without Amazon Prime Subscriptions for shopping.
Does the AOG Ever Rest?
I track my sleep with an app and have learned about my sleep patterns. I track my diet and exercise in an app, and I wear a FitBit to help motivate me and increase my daily exercise.
I am more comfortable being away on vacation when I can keep a pulse on the things would be difficult to return to if they weren’t dealt with promptly and correctly. Some might say this might be a negative because I must never enjoy my vacations. But remember earlier, my dad worrying so much about me that he couldn’t sleep? Trust me, I come by the worry regardless of the technology.
I consume content in new and exciting ways that allow freedom and richness of experience. I can’t wait for wearable technology, drones delivering my groceries, and having a family reunion with everyone there at least in hologram form.
I think the world of the Jetsons are not far off (is it funny that the millenials won’t know what the Jetsons refers to?)
I think many people thought the TV would destroy the family – and they might have been right about that. But I also think most people have found their own balance of TV consumption in their life. It is simply a new normal. I would argue that we all have to figure out where we fit – find our own ‘new normal’ – in the AOG.
We won’t immediately get it right but I think there is a huge value to it that I am not sure I could give up…perhaps that is why I am always connected.