An Expectation to Be ‘Young’ in Social Media?

Sean Garder, @2morrowknight, and I were recently discussing a tweet we came across  (imagine that!  ツ) that caught our attention.  The tweet was an article from The Next Web entitled, “To work online or in new media, there’s an expectation for you to be ‘young’” written by @Zee.

The article states, “To work in tech, online, or in any new media role, there’s an expectation that you should be young.”

I thought this point was quite interesting, and, the piece caught my attention.   I speculate it would be a great subject to ask ten of my social media friends for their point of view of this statement.   I will share their standpoint later.

Personally, I feel when we have a culture in which we embrace a diverse range of ages, we can achieve from and flourish in the work force by learning from each other.

This applies to the social media world, as well as our day-to-day office lives.   I believe being receptive to openness will drive a company forward into progressive thinking.   When we have strong candidates and a good management team, it’s a win, WIN scenario!  Why have barriers?   Why let the internet define “what is an appropriate age for the new media”?

The basic building block of good team building is for a leader to promote the feeling that every human being is unique and adds value. ~ Anon

I believe when you pick a strong team (based on talent rather than age), collaborate and build trust, fairness and respect, that you then have developed a solid foundation for that team to thrive.

I invited Sean to join and contribute to my post and reached out to other social media users on their take on the role of age in the technological workplace.

In addition, I asked them to comment on the narrative from The Next Web .

What is your view on the expectation of the new media as being geared toward the “young”?

Here are several diverse point of views from my guests and thank you everyone for contributing.   Please feel free to share additional thoughts on the subject!

  “To work in tech, online, or in any new media role, there’s an expectation that you should be young. “
  On the one hand, you can say many of the innovators in this industry are young.  So it could make sense if you just look at it that way.  But I believe it goes much deeper than that.  The “expectation” of youth (in many instances) is tied to a company’s plan to get free, or cheap labor from young people who are just getting started in the work force.
  A lot of the “rules” we accept are made up by people no better than any of us.   So how do you do away with this ridiculous “only under 25 rule”?   Collaboration.  It’s one of the biggest trends in social media over the past two years.  Imagine many more men and women – regardless of age – working on substantive, transformational, profitable projects together.  My sources tell me that in 2012 we will see more of that in a very big way.  There is certainly more than enough work to go around.
  Social media is diverse (the young, and, the seasoned), so why openly institute and enforce the kinds of limits that betray the substance and depth of the medium?  To change it, you have to think out of the box.  And working on projects with a determined, action- and goal-oriented group of people is the best way to create a shift in general “hiring expectations”, and to change the headline to:  “To work in tech, online, or in any new media role, there’s an expectation that you should be…knowledgeable and forward-thinking, with a healthy respect for diversity.
  Although there’s an unfortunate perception correlating the “new media” role and online marketing with the younger generation, I believe it comes down to drive and passion.  And as online social marketing is considered a fairly “new” medium, it sort of levels the playing field for everyone.
  Personally for me, being a (cough! cough!) “mature” mompreneur, I never thought of age as a barrier.   Perhaps it’s because of my fascination and love for new media and technology, and a drive to stay abreast of current trends.   Regardless of age, it’s a stigma only if you allow it to be.
  My clients want two things:  brand insights and knowledge based on my years of marketing experience and proof that I can harness technology within the media landscape to deliver customers.
  What’s unique today is that innovation happens at such a rapid pace, we no longer experience the generational adoption gaps.  My son blogs.   So do I.   My young staffers tweet, pin, and facebook.   So do I.
  What about working in the high-tech world?  Are younger people better?  Can older people still contribute?
  Age doesn’t matter.   But you have to stay innovative, passionate, and adaptive to change.  You can’t be stuck in the past.
  Hiring young people does help keep everyone current and moving forward.  Experienced workers contribute with business insights that come only from years of experience.
  I see it from both sides; yes, the younger generation has grown up being tech savvy from a formative age when everything comes fast and the brain is like a sponge.   When, I started in the design Industry at 20, in just one year, I became the Director of Design of a major label.  Yes, having the ability and talent is not an age barrier.   Although, I look back and see how naive I was about life and how things really work…
  Now with my “Life Experience” I am seasoned with age.   I still think and conduct my business as a young “thinking” person but, with more intuition and inner knowing.   This for me is the most relevant.
  There’s a misconception that to work in social media, you should be young.   Sure, it may seem unfamiliar to some people.  But for those of us whose careers have been made by technology and innovation, it’s been easy to adapt to social media.   And I’ve seen many people who thought they were too old to learn something new, sit down and learn how to use it in just a few minutes.  The positive impact on their professional lives is immediate.  Connections are made, networks are expanded, communication and sharing are simplified.
  My first business, iParenting, was one of the early parenting websites.   After launching in 1996, we were blogging before that word became mainstream (back then we called it an “online journal”).   Instead of Facebook comments, we used bulletin boards.   Instead of Twitter parties, we used chat rooms.   But the result was the same:   We were in social media before we knew the term existed.
  Today, I’m building a new business,, that’s being fueled by social media.   It’s just part of my daily life, and gets seamlessly integrated into what I do and how I communicate.  That’s because social media is all about relationships, and that’s vital at every age.
  You’re never too old to build new relationships, and to reinforce existing ones.   And you’re never too old to learn a new way to do that.
  Certainly, the expectation that one needs to be young to work in technology or new media exists, and it is partially created by the increasing focus of the media on success stories of the young and gifted.
  Nowadays, it is no longer enough to have a track record in your given industry, and we see more and more of the jobs go to younger people, particularly in new media.
  While the situation is nothing to laugh about [and it’s bound to change as the “new” in new media starts to fade], I prefer to look at the positive side of it:  the current environment is giving those of us who are a bit north of 30 an opportunity to dive headlong into the ambitious projects we’ve been dreaming about.   This is an exciting prospect for those of us who are able to see beyond the idea of working for somebody else.
  Regardless of age, anyone now has the tools to launch web-based services or products, to blog and find a niche with the potential to be successful.  We should embrace it!   In the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis, it is us  entrepreneurs who will be driving global economic growth and innovation.
  When I started thinking more about this, I realized I have dealt with people at a variety of ages all that have been amazing at their jobs and brilliant minds in the tech, online and new media arena.   I would say this statement doesn’t fit with my interactions.   The statement I think should be made is…  to work in tech, online, or in any media role you have to be passionate and love to geek out both online and offline.
  All of  these people I have had the pleasure of interacting with have had their own strengths but the one common thing they had was passion for the industry.
  The thing I like working with the younger brains is they don’t have too many “rules” yet, they’re dreamers and don’t seem to know what failure looks like so are willing to jump off a cliff in a direction that is unknown.   The people with more life experience have their strengths too.   I’ve found they have an amazing ability to help guide you in a very strong direction before you jump off the cliff.   They too will let you jump off the cliff, maybe even pushing you..  but they’ll often be able to tell you what the other 3 cliffs have felt like when they landed.
  Technology has been around the same amount of time for all of us.   Young or old if we embraced it the day it came out then we all have the same resume of using it.   That’s where decision makers in companies probably have the same requirement for filling the job, and that requirement should be the job goes to the person who can do the job the best. My advice to anyone looking for a job in this field is to just be you, be confident, passionate and if you can do the job the best you should be the one hired for the job no matter of your age.
  Cheers to all of you that share the same dna passionate about technology bug that I have and thanks for being in my world.   Dream big no matter what age or stage in your career you are
  I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s , the language of computers was as foreign to me as Pig Latin.   They were a rare commodity and the only people I knew that understood them were anti social geeks.   Little did I know those geeks would pave the way leading me to the social media I use today.
  I just turned 40 and have taken a strong interest in all the new  online ways to network, market and discuss mutual topics of interest in my business.   I “somewhat” understand the views of top executives wanting to hire our youth who were born with a computer in their hand.   However,  getting the opportunity to work in this industry or any other shouldn’t be based on age.   No no no…
  To work in tech or new media, the most important traits a person needs to have are passion and a desire to learn.   It is true that younger generations are growing up with new media, but that doesn’t mean age should be a barrier to working in the field.
  New media is accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.  You can be a grandparent and be on Twitter or a teenage posting content on YouTube.   Forget boundaries and have fun with the medium.
  Hey, who says I’m NOT young?  Might as well come clean since Wikipedia and my wrinkles would conspire to tell the truth.   I’m almost 50-years-old but at the risk of sounding cliché, I do think, especially with regard to technology, age is just a number.   I come from “old media”, traditional journalism.
  When I lost my job I had two choices; wait for my agent to remember me then find me a new job, or reinvent myself.   I used technology and social media to do that.  While it may not have been as intuitive to me as it is for my kids, it doesn’t mean I’m incapable of learning.   My motto:  I don’t know everything but I’m smart and I have YouTube.  Eventually I’ll figure it out.
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26 Replies to “An Expectation to Be ‘Young’ in Social Media?

  1. Like many who commented, I know that I’m not a kid anymore. However @ 53 I still sing out loud & off key in public, dance wildly when challenged to and love to climb jungle gyms.

    I also am addicted to good tweets, FB & FourSquare posts, LinkedIn discussions and blogging regularly.

    I think Social Media is a conversation tool to those who love to converse anywhere, anytime and with anyone. (sounds like a good tweet – watch me do it)

    Thanks for a good read & conversation Ann.

  2. Great post, Ann! Strikes a chord within many of us. I stopped dead in my Twitter tracks!I agree with all of your points.

    Reasons why I think people assume the young are a natural choice for the techy age are the fact that they have “grown up” with FB, phones, games & apps. Also, that they are “hip” with new things, and the seasoned are not.

    In working with the young and the seasoned on social media, I’ve found many gaps where each age can help fill in with the other. I have found myself very surprised at the gaps. Many of the young people have no idea about LI or Twitter, about what to post, how to network or what is considered professional. In terms of language & professionalism, I’ve seen a casualness that is not serving the young well in the professional world.

    On the other hand, some of the seasoned, lack confidence with the technical know how. The young grew up with play & learn. The young have the mindset as “I’ll figure it out”; the seasoned mindset are looking for the directions. The young are more comfortable with integrating platforms from a techy point of view while the knowledge of the communication skills and knowing your audience are not as evident.

    One example of “techy” integration: My 22 year old had the laptop in the kitchen & was watching a video on how to make a pie crust; I wouldn’t have thought of that. My natural tendency would be to use the internet in a more researchy way.

    In written communication, we lose approximately 50% of communication due to the non verbal cues. Here’s a cause for more powerful communication. The awareness and the practice of more effective communication, coupled with life experiences, helps this skill. Many buying decisions or relationship initiatives are stopped before they have even begun, due to the communications received. Social media is all about people and relationships. We can all learn how to use a platform and the various technologies; however,in regards to truly connecting with others, this is a much deeper skill that develops over time.

    Note: My references are made in broad generalizations.There are many young and seasoned who don’t fall into the generalities.

    1. Hi Marie,

      Wow, thank you for taking the time to leave me such a thoughtful comment. Thank you for sharing.


  3. Love this post and all the wisdom everyone shared – all making great points.

    I see any prejudice, whether it age, race, culture, gender – as someone’s else’s issue and not mine and refuse to let it rule my decisions, my thoughts, my goals, or even my heart. 🙂

  4. I would say that “young at heart” is a good attribute and as was mentioned above, age is a number. It is when we get stuck with the fallacy that we are “too old” that we can tend to miss out, but this is not necessarily so. It is a trap that many, sad to say, fall into and if by choice one seems to be content in being “too old” well that is up to them. In my opinion it is just a cop out as it takes real get-up-and-go to keep up with the fast pace of the new. But I know of many an “older” person to be more “on the ball” than some young people.

    I have to say however, that my son is very quick (or patient) than I to pick up on certain technological novelties. But then again, that has a lot to do with the individual.

    When a company invests in someone through training, I can understand that they are looking at the years of service that they can benefit from the one they are considering for the job, be it “new media”, or otherwise.

    Good topic, nice discussion! Thank you!

  5. Hi Ann,
    This is a great read! I think a lot of the rational behind the bias toward ‘young’ social media employees, is that it’s only recent grads who are learning anything about new media in school! I think you are right Ann in that skills, experience and merit – should trump all when it comes to being employed in sm roles.

  6. To make you all smile: I’m 72 years old (not a techie at all) and two years ago I gave a talk at PodCamp in Toronto on Building Community online. A journalist was in the audience and to my surprise I read about myself the next day in the Toronto Star. She wrote:

    ‘My favourite session of the day, hands down, was CEO Evelyn Hannon’s “Building an online community is not Rocket Science.” Homegirl was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most innovative thinkers of the new century, and her website gets more than one million visitors a year. But that’s not why she’s impressive. She’s impressive because she’s become insanely successful online despite not having a Blackberry or iPhone. She can barely use a computer and she’s 70 years old. Plus, she’s hilarious and my new idol.

    Go figure. LOL

  7. Hope you find this little story as amusing as I did! I was doing a social media seminar at a women’s conference three years ago. A friend seated at the back of the room was near a group of twenty-somethings. When I walked in the room, one was overheard to say, “She’s old – what’s she gonna teach us?” Their tune changed, I’m happy to report, before the end of the session. #TheOldLadysStillGotIt

  8. Great article, Ann, a true honor to be in the company of some of my fave social media stars! Definitely a topic that makes one think… I’m getting great answers on my networks from people of all ages! Thanks again for letting me be part of it.


    1. Hi Elianne,

      Thank you for contributing to this post. I look forward to meeting you IRL in the next DC Tweet-up!

      ❤ Ann

  9. A young friend of mine’s wife got a job recently doing social media for an NPO. “Oh! I didn’t know she had that experience!” I said. He said, “She doesn’t! She just looks like the type who would understand social media and be good at it.” hmmm. “Wonderful, ” I said. As a communicator and journalist who has been an active participant in building the Internet and the Web and the Social Web – for more than 20 years — many of them as a volunteer, I have to say that ageism is rampant in the consumer-oriented media about this subject. However, at a recent tech conference here in Chicago I sat in a room full of very serious BtoB type social media folks and they were a mature group or marketers and communicators who had become adept at using a new set of tools.

    So I made a slight mention of this erroneous age assumption in a blog post of mine—… and the media folks involved adjusted their language a bit.

    It really is important that news bureaus, broadcast outlets and other media players adjust their assumptions. I can think of at least two other occasions where top level editorial types made the age assumption about their colleagues because they themselves are older and are personally too busy to learn.

    The point is that I know just as many young folks as as middle aged folks who shun social media. Social-media loving peeps come in all ages and ethnicities as do social-media shunning luddites.

    With the evolution of the Internet continuing at this rapid pace, It’s going to be a challenge for all ages to keep up with the changes short of having a chip inserted in our frontal lobes. Singularity anyone?

  10. It’s my experience that age is but a number in the social world, where combining hard won experience with innovation,creativity & the ‘what if’ factor matter most. I too have a young adult daughter who is way more tech savvy than I, but when the boomers & veterans die off, everyone will be born that way… What I love about the social world is the ability to meet, greet, dialogue learn from and collaborate with people of all ages, from around the real world. It’s where we can create, achieve, sell stuff, change minds without predjudice to colour, age, socio-economic status, based on like-mindedness and for me, a meritocracy of thought leadership and good followship.

  11. A great post on a topic close to my heart. I love social media with a passion, I use it for business and personal and definitely wouldn’t qualify as a young, young person. I think age is irrelevant in most circumstances anyway, it is only yourself that stops you from getting into or enjoying something based on age, and social media is definitely something for people of all ages and in fact I am really into social media as I said but my 19 year old daughter really isn’t apart from FB – she tells me I’m a true geek.. 🙂

  12. @Daniel – that is a stereotype. Adaptation is more related to ability than age.

    Of all the social media leaders I connect with, only one is young.

    Come on Apple users. Was Steve Jobs young?

  13. Great contributions. I strongly believe that someone with a good business head, and/or good business experience with Social Media skills would do a great job. I am a good example of that!!

  14. Again, thank you for reaching out to me Ann! Honored to be in such amazing company! A thought-provoking topic with insightful responses. I wholeheartedly agree with everyone! 😀

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thank you for your time and contribution. Yes, we have a great collection of responses from a wonderful group of friends.


      ❤ Ann

  15. Great collection of thoughts from some wonderful social media folk Ann, much food for thought there.

    As someone who would not qualify as young (Only at heart! ) I can say that until I jumped into the social media world a couple of years ago I would definitely have answered yes!

    But with the benefit of experience I would now say that social media can be a wonderful place to be for people of all ages. In fact I would go so far as to say that those youngsters could learn a lot from us ‘dinosaurs’ in how to interact and definitely how to spell!

    Thanks for another thoughtful article Ann 🙂

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