It’s no secret that different generations can sometimes be at odds. The “When I was 15 I was already out of the house,” comments are met with “I’m $250,000 in debt from student loans.” It’s a constant cycle of conversations steeped in misunderstanding, misinformation and refusal to see each others’ perspectives.
It’s nothing new. There have been generational divides dating back to the days of Socrates, who said the following about the next generation.
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
I bet this sounds familiar. There may always be a sharp contrast between generations. However, the recent and unfortunate coronavirus outbreak has presented an opportunity to strengthen relationships and break down these generational barriers. One way to do it is through technology.
“There may be teens and young adults who have to help their parents set up Zoom accounts and navigate online platforms,” said Yvette Hallman, who is a millennial real estate agent from Huntington and participated in an effort to deliver groceries to the elderly. “Coronavirus can bridge the gap between multiple generations because we’re put in a position where we truly need each other.”
Zodelia Williams, a baby boomer from Freeport, joked when asked about how often her children had to help her step up her tech game.
“They CANNOT stand me right now,” said Williams. “They did it pre-COVID, they are doing it now and they will have to do it after.”
She does believe that even though the pandemic may result in a few ruffled feathers, we have to remain united.
“We are not on this earth in isolation,” said Williams. “Although our thought process may be different, we all have similar goals for mankind, which is to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities. Coronavirus reminds us that we all have the ability to co-exist if we work together across generations through effective communication and dialogue.”
Rev. Adrian Reid, who is also a millennial and the head pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Brentwood, would agree.
“Two things that divide generations are a lack of communication and understanding,” said Rev. Reid. “At one time, families came together and talked about their family history and shared life stories. This is rare today. The next issue is of understanding the differences that lie within each generation. Now is the best time for conversations to be had.”
When it comes to professional communication, Sam Law, a millennial marketer and Wyandanch resident, believes that older generations must understand that virtual communication is crucial in the workplace.
“I think that right now, a lot of older folks are realizing they need to work from home and might not know what they’re doing and need to reach out to millennials and Gen Z,” said Law, who also believes this new change comes with a shift in mindset. “Baby boomers have this longstanding notion that you need to come into work, complete a job and have these task masters tell you what to do. Millennials as a whole sort of reject that idea. I think this virus is going to change the working industry, and technology is the only thing keeping certain businesses alive right now.”
Rev. Reid, who is a 30-year-old millennial, became pastor of his 50-year-old church with members who have been there since the beginning, and he was able to make that technological switch to ensure his congregation was still able to receive the word because there was respect on both sides.
“The coronavirus has caused us to up our technology and the ways we connect with our congregants,” said Reid. “Along with a conference call, we have added Livestream on our church’s Facebook page for our worship on Sundays and Cisco Webex for our Bible Study on Wednesdays.”
Aurora Workman, a baby boomer, human resources director and Uniondale resident, does think technology is a great way to share stories and experiences, but sometimes millennials and Generation Z, who have many redeeming qualities, are too susceptible to technology’s black hole.
“I think they [the youth] take in entirely too much information about devastating and tragic events, without having the deciphering tools it takes to critically think, process and act positively,” said Workman. “They stay up until 2 a.m. on their smart phones viewing multiple platforms. I know they are more depressed than prior generations. We must engage with others and be mindful of the human condition.”
Williams is a doctor of social work and has worked for the NYC Department of Education for over 20 years. She has seen the youth responses to the pandemic vary.
“For some, we saw issues with behavior we have never seen before like defiance and disrespect,” said Williams. “Some have been more attached to our every move. Some have voiced frustration, fear and anxiety about lack of socialization and the unexpected. It depends on the day, the time and the youth.”
When it comes to dealing with the virus, she advises the following for not just the youth, but everyone.
In the end, there are some truths to the stereotypes assigned to each generation. But, individuals are not one-noted, and each one deserves the same level of respect regardless of age. There’s always going to be differences and misunderstandings between each generation. But, if we utilize tools like technology and effective communication throughout the outbreak and beyond, it can give us the chance to smooth some tensions and understand each other a little bit better.
In the words of Hallman, a young but wise millennial, “We all need each other and have value,” said Hallman. “From the youngest to the oldest, no one is more important than the other.”