Millennials are the first generation that is younger than the Web. Integrating it with their day is as natural to them as brushing their teeth, and they often see it as equally vital. Though the Internet’s importance to business is undeniably increasing every year, there are many necessary offline skills that younger professionals would be wise to master.
Technology and the generation gap
Online proficiency (and dependency) has given rise to much good-natured derision across the generation gap. Established professionals chide Gen Y for their ever-present devices, and millennials give each other knowing looks when an older colleague or relative asks for help with a simple online task.
The problem with the Web savvy of twenty-somethings is that, at times, it can approach addiction. A good example of this is how it intrudes on work. While the Internet makes many tasks more convenient, it is also a major source of wasted time on the job.
Employees of all ages are guilty of letting the Internet suck them into its unproductive black hole, but millennials are, unsurprisingly, the primary offenders. Employers who grew up before the era of ubiquitous Internet access are not amused by this trend, which can result in friction between rising professionals and bosses their parents’ age.
If you tend to waste time online when you’re on the clock, you may find yourself viewed with suspicion, even when you pull out your device for a work-related purpose.
Life skills that don’t require a wi-fi connection
Supervisors may look to millennials as the resident technology experts but there are many other important assets that a successful employee needs to have. Most of these are learned offline.
For example, no professional will survive without top-notch communication skills. Oral communication, however, is learned through face-to-face interaction, not through chatting online, where you have a delete button to edit your words before you commit to them. Articulation in writing comes from reading books, which impart a linear and logical progression of thought (among other benefits). Reading websites has the opposite effect, since they allow you to skip from page to page, in no particular order.
Other crucial traits for workplace success include:
- Confident leadership.
- Listening and developing sympathy with others.
- Sense of humor.
- Discretion about when to share and when to stay quiet.
- Specific technical expertise gained through certification courses and job experience.
These and many other job and social skills are essential for everyday life, not just life in the office.
What happens when you’re online too much
We use technology to inform ourselves, relax and just pass the time. Whether we're at work, with our friends, in a car or at home, we're always connected.
There are dangers in letting any material possession give us so much comfort that we retreat into it when disturbed, like a turtle into its shell. One such danger is that when we are presented with startling truths about the consequences of our dependence, we tend to retreat further into the thing that’s harming us. Even when we are informed about its detrimental effects, we simply feel the safest with it.
The effects of excessive Internet use have been well-documented and thoroughly exploited for scare tactics. Instead of being frightened and running back to YouTube to wash it all away with more cat videos, consider this hopeful data:
- Brain development continues into a person’s 20s. There is still time for tech-dependent millennials to unplug and reduce their Internet consumption, before excessive use warps their emotional and cognitive health.
- The consequences of Web addiction on physical and relational health are completely preventable. They can often be resolved without medication, simply by decreasing or eliminating screen time for as long as necessary. Professionals can use software like StayFocusd to keep themselves on task at work and relax with non-electronic entertainment at home.
- Having a plan in place for when the power grid is unexpectedly disrupted can help informed millennials look forward to time without technology. Such preparedness also brings stress-relief benefits, since workers in both the UK and America list losing Internet access as one of their greatest fears.
The Internet has been a good friend, especially to those of us who have seen it grow up with us. The reason web addiction is so prevalent among the millennial generation is that letting it develop is just so easy. Unlike alcohol and drug awareness, we didn’t hear prevention messages throughout our education warning us against too much computer use. We had to figure that out on our own.
Now we know the harm of too much connectedness and too little real life, especially where our jobs are concerned. We have a responsibility to discipline our Internet use, not only for our own benefit, but as an example to the overwhelmingly connected Generation Z. They may not make WALL?E come true, but we will have to supervise them at work one day. It’ll be much easier for everyone if we and they are plugged into our jobs instead of our social media accounts.