Have you ever heard the phrase “the one constant is change”?
Or perhaps the original version, uttered (according to Wikipedia) thousands of years ago by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which was more along the lines of “Everything flows, nothing stands still”?
As we all get older, it’s hard to argue with such expressions, since as much as we all might feel like we’re still smack-dab in our prime as a professional, and on top of our game, NEW concepts and NEW ways of doing business inevitably creep into play, right under our noses. And before we know it, unless we pay close attention and adapt to these new trends, we’ll quickly go from being the rising young star in an organization to being the “grumpy old troll” with the cubicle in the corner — who seems to still to think the business world works the way it did in, say, 1996. And has a wardrobe to follow suit.
On this note, it’s been interesting to note some of the profound changes that have taken place in the job market, and the world as a whole, over the past decade or two. In previous articles, like the one here, I’ve talked about related issues, such as my decision to finally get a smart phone, not because I really wanted or needed one, but simply because I felt it was an imperative step to keeping up with the times. Similarly, I wrote another article here a while back, discussing whether the pace of change had accelerated so much that (scary concept) YOUNGER professionals actually now had more to teach OLDER professionals, versus the other way around! (and if you like that article, click the one here, too, where a 30-year-old reader weighs in on the subject and makes some great points…)
So what’s the latest “paradigm shift” that might be creating a schism between older and younger professionals? Based on some of the chatter I’ve seen out there, it might be the issue of privacy. While most of us grew up in a world where it was really important to keep your personal information, interests, and activities closely guarded, and away from prying eyes, younger generations don’t seem to have as much of a hang-up around this issue. They’re “living their lives out loud” and not really looking back, from what I can tell. At least many of them. Check out the recent WSJ article below, for example, featuring an interview with Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.
Did you happen to catch the very last line in the article? If not, look again, since it’s the juicy one. It attributes Mr. Hoffman as saying that privacy is “primarily an issue with old people.”
Wow! That’s quite the little bombshell of a statement! If fact, this remark has spawned a WAVE of rebuttals and discussion from various thought leaders around the country, such as the remarks in General Counsel magazine here or similar remarks from job board owner Marc Cenedella, here. For the most part, these people are railing against Mr. Hoffman and suggesting he’s simply trying to get us all to let down our guard for his own selfish business interests, so that he can do some nefarious things with the invaluable data we’ve all willingly uploaded about ourselves onto the LinkedIn platform.
And maybe they’re right. But I’m not as convinced, because when I hang around twenty-somethings on occasion these days, or work with them as clients, they DON’T seem nearly as concerned about privacy as the rest of us. It’s no big deal to them. They grew up in a world where you pretty much just scattered your personal information, contact information, social comings-and-goings and other data out into the winds of cyberspace and didn’t much worry about it. And if you get burned by an embarrasing photo or some minor identity theft, every now and then, that’s just the price you pay — and life goes on.
So personally, I’m starting to believe that the privacy debate may be the next big cultural tipping point — or mega-trend — that will begin creating an important wedge between various age demographics out in the world of work. As more and more younger employees start companies, or assume executive roles in organizations, we may inevitably start seeing decisions where privacy isn’t factored into the mix as much as we’ve been used to, historically, and where those people who stand up, get indignant, and make a big stink about it suddenly start to appear…outdated.
Could be wrong, of course, but it certainly seemed like an interesting issue worth talking about. Your thoughts?
P.S. To give full credit where credit is due, Generation Y blogger Penelope Trunk started talking about this issue YEARS ago, when few people were really paying attention. Read some of her fascinating posts here and here on the subject, or the related NPR story she cites here. And if your immediate reaction to this whole discussion is “That’s crazy — privacy is still extremely important” you definitely owe it to yourself to read the above links and hear the other side of the story!