The Reason "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25" Struck Such A Nerve

Catherine Sloan's recent blog post on Nextgen Journal, Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, has generated hundreds of comments in just a few days, the overwhelming majority of them negative.

There is, however, a more important point to be made than simply whether someone who grows up with a particular kind of technology is more suited to manage it. The fact is that technological innovation is coming faster and faster, and has now reached a point where it is actually noticeable across generations. The generation gap is widening simply because the speed of technology is increasing.

Think about it: If you have teenagers today, they are far more different from you than you were from your parents when you were a teenager. And their children are likely to be even more different from them. Not long ago a friend of mine went for a drive with his children, and on the radio one of the kids' favorite songs was playing. So they all sang along. At the end of the song the 3-year-old, who was already accustomed to a completely different kind of technology, spoke up: "Play the song again, Daddy! Play it again!"

There are many reasons for the accelerating rate at which technology is driving change, from the exponentially compounding effects of Moore's Law to the even faster combinatorial rate at which social networks increase. The fact is, however, that technology has improved the global rate of economic growth per capita to more than 2% per year, compared to just half that rate a hundred years ago, and virtually zero just 300 years before that. What will happen when growth, globally, tops 3% or even 4% per capita per year?

Whether you buy Sloan's point of view or the point of view of her critics, what ought to be clear is that no one can stand still any more. You—yes, you, in the T-shirt and flip-flops!—if you want to remain productive (and employed) you'll have to work hard to be open-minded, agile, and capable of adjusting. You cannot simply assume that what you learned in school will be useful more than a few years after graduation. Go ahead and learn accounting, or marketing, or art history, for sure. But also, and more importantly, learn how to learn. Learn how to answer questions, on your own or with your own social connections. Learn how to think differently. Be entropic.

[Image: Flickr user World Bank Photo]

Don Peppers is a speaker, consultant, and co-author of Extreme Trust. Follow him @DonPeppers.

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  • Arman Nobari

    Her last line.. "The mere fact that my generation has been up close and personal with all these developments over the years should make clear enough that we are the ones who can best predict, execute, and utilize the finest developments to come."

    I feel like she's glorifying the end-user as being way more credited than the developers. I'm under 25, working in Social Media, and her whole view of the topic is backwards as hell. It's incredibly short-sighted and personally defamatory to claim that "her generation" has been up close with all these developments over the years, when a mixture of individuals from various generations put the hard effort to actually create the end-products.

    As someone who falls in that bracket of who "should be a Social Media Manager", I can say with absolute certainty that no one "group" will ever have more precedence in one field of work over others.

  • Pooky H

    I think it's important to keep up to date as you suggest.  Simply being young does not mean you know how to use networks well and arguably, they are used very differently by people of different generations.  I don't think age should be a barrier to any role, but experience should - so perhaps the argument should not be 'only those under 25 are qualified' but rather 'only those with X years experience with X social networks' are qualified?

  • Dan O' Donnell

    Wow, I just read Catherine Sloan's blogpost on NextGen entitled "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25."  I then read some of the rebuttal comments.  Hey, I'm 61.  I am a history teacher in high school.  I am around young people from 14-19 Monday-Friday.  I also pastor a church that is mainly attended by people over 50 years of age.  I truly can see the differences in the generations.  I think the generations can learn from each other.  I have learned alot from the high schoolers that I teach about technology.  It has been interesting to read both viewpoints.  I also like the above article by Don Peppers.  Good job, Don!  Your point "Don't quit learning and stand still because the world is moving on" was right on target.  Let the generations have respect for each other and cooperate. 

  • Guest

    It seems these days that under-twenty-fivers and millennials in general have something of a know-it-all attitude, probably brought on by the wealth of information they grew up with on the Internet.  It has its advantages, of course, but in cases like these it appears that some within that generation believe that that access to extra knowledge applied to them only and that it automatically makes them more experienced in their fields.  It's a nice confidence booster, I suppose, but if we've learned anything from this incident, it's that the inexperienced sometimes overstep their bounds.  Interesting read about that here

  • Kate Renee Cochran

    I'm fine with young people managing social media. Just be sure they have someone with experience managing them... Let "kids" prove themselves and you might be surprised. Pair them with an experienced mentor and you have a worthy, agile team. 

  • Dorothy Crenshaw

    The reason it struck a nerve is because there's some truth to it, however badly she may have made the case. It's not the only factor, but, yes, one's relationship to technology makes a difference. In the end, it's about inclusiveness

  • Dutch

    Narrow minded? Short sighted? Absolutely. In addition, I find your (@DonPepper) assumptions somewhat comical. You could actually argue that the generation gap between "Generation X" and their children to be smaller than the one that exists between Gen X and Baby Boomers. Gen X was the first generation to grow up with computers in the mainstream, albeit not from birth like the current generation.

    A better argument is that the pace of advancement is such that generations of people will not be able to rest on the education of their youth and expect to keep up with society. It boils down to recognizing and acting on the need to continuously educate yourself in emerging technology- no matter what your age.

  • lmodeen

    For me, what really struck a nerve, was two-fold. First, her tone and whiny woe is me. And second, the fact that she was describing social media as essentially a technology thing (updating Facebook and Twitter), when being really good at social media (communication) is something that takes years of practice to hone, and life experiences that overall help with good judgement and maturity. Communicating is not something new. Learning how to update Facebook can be learned relatively easily (my 85 year old great uncle is on Facebook all the time). Learning how to respond in a crisis situation (like the one she faced and is still facing) cannot be learned easily and is the real skill, and more of what any company should really want.

  • Stacys46

    So agree. Just like all new media, social is just another marketing tool. Without the foundation of strong marketing know how, social media managers fail at bringing results that count. Let's be honest... We've all witnessed these people crash and burn quickly. Learn this tactic and start preparing for the next thing. If you know marketing it's no more than smart strategy to find and engage your target!

  • Andrew Linardos

    Yeah, I think the key is the yearning to learn.  At the speed that technology is changing and evolving it becomes crucial to keep up.  Once you think you've seen it all, you are in the dark.

  • Wouldn't dare say

    She is right--all people over the age of 45 are too old any way.  Just ask an HR exec 

  • Eric G

    depending on context. Perhaps they meant that folks over 45 are too old in any (or every) way. Like the greatest contribution they can make in the comments is to correct another commenter's grammar. 

    Try making a typo in a blog comment and posting and then trying to find an edit link after you spot your mistake, there usually isn't one. 

    I'm 41 by the way, almost there.