Baby Boomers, the Generation in Transition

Nov. 13, 2013

This guest post is the third piece in a four-part series about similarities and differences between baby boomers, Millennials and a newly defined subculture, Generation Z.

I have never really thought of myself as a baby boomer, but I know I must be because I was born in the Post-World War II baby boom between 1945 and 1964. So, I guess I fit that part of the definition but, there is more.

According to Wikipedia, "Boomers grew up at a time of dramatic social change." I find this statement profoundly true. 

As I write this blog (my first), I think I remember the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, as well as Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. I remember the Tucson hometown hero Astronaut Frank Borman, the Gemini and Apollo missions and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. 

I remember the Vietnam War and the many anti-war protests and riots, even those held on the University of Arizona campus.

I remember Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation.

I remember women fighting for their rights and burning their bras.

I remember a country at war with itself many times over: the Watts Riots and the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention riots.

Much of the "dramatic social change" has left an impression on me to this day. The world was changing before my eyes; I believe that is why I embrace change and I am not fearful of it. 

Facebook was my first entrée into social media. 

I joined Facebook about five; years ago, primarily because I thought it made good business sense to do so. I have worked for nonprofits for the more than 17 years with 13 of those invested in development. So, I joined Facebook to share stories about the nonprofit I worked for, and also to post what our clients needed. Soon, I began finding friends I had not seen since college. I was hooked! Since then, Linkedin has become another tool I use frequently to network with colleagues and UA alumni.

In the past year, since I purchased my first iPhone – an iPhone5 – I have resorted to frequently checking my text messages and email more times than seems reasonable. I was the last to join the iPhone world of my “baby boomer” friends. The grief I received was immense. Not wanting a phone where I could text and get messages stems from my not having to feel I am connected 24/7. This goes back to my love for the simple life I grew up in where you connected to people personally and not through a text or an email. However, I have surged ahead of those same friends using Facebook both professionally and personally to connect with my 221 friends and my 304 connections on LinkedIn.

Professionally, in my nonprofit world, I must keep up with social media. It is the life-line to our younger constituency as well as being able to share with a broad audience. I am a development officer at an agency that provides assistance to domestic violence victims. We rely on Facebook and Twitter every day.  Both are powerful tools to get out our message, to encourage others to remember that there is hope and to remind people that we are available 24/7 through our crisis hotline. 

Social media, I believe, has been a gift, but I am not 100 percent reliant upon it because I feel there is a cost involved.

You have the world at your fingertips, yet my fear is we’re losing the art of the written word and conversation. I was raised to say thank you, look someone in the eye and give them a firm handshake. I was taught to give back to your community and education was the greatest gift. I was taught to not look back because what is done is done but to look forward and make a difference with your life. I still send cards and handwritten notes and letters. I won’t buy a Kindle because I love the feel of a book and the turning of the pages. I also love nothing better than sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper.  

Many of my friends have a Kindle and do not subscribe to the newspaper anymore and read it online. And I am blown away that when I go out to dinner the number of people who all have their heads down because they are either texting or checking email. I want to say turn your phone off and talk! Communication is a key component to our world, yet if we don’t talk to our neighbors, colleagues, friends and family, how can we learn to accept our differences, embrace diversity and be kind to that stranger who needs direction? 

I guess I want the best of both worlds – the world I grew up in where there was no social media and the human connection was the means to communicate.

I still want to see the sky, smell the air and talk to a stranger and seize the moment.

But, I also want to connect with people who live far away, whether it be a friend in Pakistan or my friends’ children and grandchildren on Facebook.

I want to find my hairdresser on Yelp because people give feedback there that is useful. I want to be able to text a group of friends’ via a single message about dinner plans.

I could not do any of these things without social media. I am living in a world of cultural and constant technical change, yet I still fight to keep and embrace my "human touch" world. 

Other articles in this series are:

Lynn Engel is the communications and development associate officer for Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse in San Mateo, Calif. Engel has worked in the nonprofit world for more than 17 years. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in elementary education in 1976. Also, Engel serves on the UA Foundation board and is past chair of the UA Alumni Association. Her passions are reading, traveling, sports, the UA and volunteering in her community. Engel her husband, Jim, reside in Foster City, Calif.