Kids these days, with their Facebook and social networks
Social media debate among readers centered on generational differences
- By Government IT Community
- Jun 11, 2010
It could be called the Facebook litmus test: Are federal employees wasting taxpayer dollars when they log on to their Facebook accounts? Or are they honing their social networking skills, which ultimately will deliver big dividends for their employers?
Social media, more than any other topic at FCW.com, generates a debate in which the two sides appear to divide largely along generational lines. It is impossible to verify because most people do not include their age in their comments. But it is apparent nonetheless.
But a recent Federal Computer Week article about this generation gap (“Social media divides federal workforce,” May 24) brought a number of responses that bridged that gap, suggesting that many concerns were a misguided if understandable response to innovation.
“There is nothing inherently bad with these things — they are just different from what we are used to,” wrote Linda in Fort Worth, Texas. “Twenty or 30 years from now, Facebook, Twitter, etc., will be old news, and newer, more innovative tools will have been created. The incoming generation will be the dinosaurs complaining about the new generation and how they don't value work ethics as they know them. The world continues on and on.”
Other readers are more cautious, not exactly embracing the technology but suggesting it bears watching. And of course, others still are not buying it all.
(Editor’s note: Comments have been edited for length, clarity and style.)
Next thing you know they will be dropping the ban on having games on the PCs during meals and breaks and playing music on the CDs.
A High Bar
We have always had regulations allowing limited use of government resources for personal use. Management has the right to set workplace productivity standards, and this should mean that employees are to be judged primarily on the outcome of those standards. However, management must also ensure the taxpayers are receiving the best product/service possible and set the mark high to ensure compliance with those standards.
I understand the concern that some people may see social media as a waste of time. But when used on break time, I do not see the issue. On the other hand, we see highly paid employees sitting around for hours discussing items such as cars, boats, golf, TV series, RVs and thousands of other topics that do not have anything to do with their jobs.
We have to manage the use of these tools within the government but not eliminate them. I was around when the World Wide Web started. We in the government were scared to death that it would chew up all of the bandwidth of our networks because it included graphics and the workforce would waste their time surfing the Web. Look at how ubiquitous that technology has become in our government today. No one could do their job without it. Lighten up and give the technology a chance.
The government and industrial base needs to stop thinking about social media tools as Facebook. That is dinosaurism because there is more to social networking than wasting time. There's inherent value to ad hoc, unstructured discussions if they are conducted inside the firewall on a social software platform sanctioned by the company/agency. Call it business or professional networking, if that makes management more comfortable. It gets experts connected and helps solve problems.
Although the social media controversy will continue to be debated and picked clean, the productivity and generational issues are of interest. Why is it so surprising that there would be a clash of interests? Did we, the older-generation workers, think that our younger counterparts (Generation X,Y and now Z) would have the same drivers, motivations, interests and professional habits that we have? And unfortunately, the older population of workers and management, for the most part, will feel that they are not getting their money's worth from these plugged-in upstarts. However, it is time to better understand/accept the makeup of younger workers — to adjust and adapt to their inner workings and guide and direct them to make the right choices. In the final analysis, they will perform and contribute. After all, they are our future and will be doing it long after we step aside.
— Edmond Hennessy