Information. Some people have it, some people want it. Whose responsibility is it?
I’m not talking about something high stakes, like secure memos and such. I’m talking about simple answers to questions.
But the answer to “Whose responsibility is it?” is not so easy.
We’ve got a huge generational divide, my friends. And the generations are not necessarily based on age.
One group is the “Internet Generation.” Let’s call them the IGs. They can be any age, but they are the people who have been so deeply connected with the internet for the last 10-15 years that they’ve soaked up certain cultural norms related to being online.
The second group is made up of the “Casual Internet Users” or CIUs. They use the internet, but it’s not their second home.
They don’t look that different, at first glance. You’ll probably find members of both groups on Facebook, or reading your church newsletter in their email.
But their respective experiences with the internet have dramatically shaped their feelings concerning who is responsible for information sharing/obtaining.
Speaking broadly: IGs believe that if there is easily-obtained information to be had, it is the responsibility of the individual to get it. CIUs believe the responsibility is on the person doing the communication to explain any terms used.
Here’s the background: When the Internet was new, IGs would enter into communal spaces (bulletin boards, social media, etc) and would be chastised if they asked a question that was in the FAQ – a list of Frequently Asked Questions. This taught them that it was their responsibility to seek out information before daring to ask a question. This is now so much of the IGs collective norms that:
a) there are websites where you can get information on new or slang references, (such as https://www.urbandictionary.com/ and http://knowyourmeme.com/)
b) There is a snarky website called “Let Me Google That for You” (http://lmgtfy.com/) where you can send people when you feel they asked you a question with an answer they could have obtained for themselves.
Contrast that with the CIUs. For older CIUs especially, “looking something up” for their homework didn’t mean pulling out their phone, or even laptop. It meant going to the library or if you were lucky, going to that giant set of Encyclopedia Britannicas in your den. Better to just ask Dad why birds fly south for the winter, and hope for a good answer.
We know that the internet is changing our brains, and in addition to mere habit, we are probably fighting different neurological patterns that have been laid down through our respective experiences. But it can mean big problems and hurt feelings across the generations, simply because one group doesn’t understand the cultural expectations of the other.
In a church for example, here’s how it may play out: an IG member writes a newsletter column and uses the term “YMMV.” A CIU member reads that, doesn’t know what it means, and feels excluded. The IG member assumed that everyone would either know the term or look it up – but probably this assumption was at a subconscious level, because it’s just part of the norm in IG culture.
IG isn’t trying to exclude anyone. CIU member just wants to know what’s going on. No one’s fault, they just speak from two different cultures.
In the end, for those of us in covenanted communities, our question is not really “whose responsibility is it?”
The question is, How can we be hospitable and respectful to each other, across this cultural change?
IGs: go the extra step in explaining any slang or pop-referential terms you use, when you’re trying to communicate to a wide audience.
CIUs: if you see a term you don’t understand, first type it into google and see what comes up. If you can’t find an answer that makes sense, ask the originator. Most people are happy to explain, especially if you’ve tried to find the answer yourself.
Oh, and YMMV … https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/ymmv