ZDNet at 20 years old: a lot like a Millennial

ZDNet's 20th anniversary: ZDNet is 20 years old. I, however, am only 22 years old. Somehow I can see some similarities here: ZDNet is a lot like a Millennial.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

The thing is, it should be clear by now that ZDNet has turned 20 years of age. I, on the other hand, am only 22. You can probably see the problem here.

By the time that ZDNet was rolling out the front door on the shimmering red carpet that was the World Wide Web, I was interested in mostly two things: jumping up and down, and throwing custard across the dining room table.

Not much has changed, to be honest. Those who know me best will relish the thought of me throwing custard at them across the dining room table.


But over the course of this 20 year period, it has been the double-decade of the millennial; the Generation Y and the iGeneration.

It's hard to think of Isaac Newton being in a physics or mathematics lesson as a young child at school. Well someone must have taught him the basics for him to go on to be one of the foremost thinkers the world has ever seen.

Just as Shakespeare, Gandhi, Columbus, Einstein and Hendrix (I may be an '80s child but he had to be included), these great people must have started off life at a young age of naivety, immaturity and mischief -with no idea of the impact they would have in their lives.

Today's children and youth are no different. There will be a great number of young people today, the generation of those who are just leaving compulsory education and heading into the workplace or university, who will change the face of the world we live in, and have already made a stark difference to how we view the world.

The future President of the United States will have a Facebook page. One of the upcoming Secretary Generals of the United Nations will have sent a sexually explicit text message to a random lover. The scientist who will have found a cure to cancer will probably have drunk-dialled someone at 3 a.m. because they were compelled to tell their best friend "how awesome this grilled cheese is".

Just because a young person today acts like the stereotype does not mean for a minute they don't have the potential to make the future world a brilliant place. But as more and more focus on young people shows them in a negative light it sets to cause issues for their potential employers.

To put it bluntly: the younger generation still has it, but needs help.


Two of the most common terms you may have heard are the 'Generation Y' or perhaps the 'iGeneration'. The two are not mutually exclusive nor are they synonymous to one another; though do have unique elements to both.

The Generation Y represents the next wave of development for our economy, our employment market, governments and our societies.

The iGeneration also represents a change in not only methods, but attitudes and values also, with examples of social media and social networking developing from widely used yet experimental MySpace in the early 2000's; though, losing out to Facebook towards the end of the decade.

One of the key factors of social networking was the increased growth of the web, finding its way into more and more households and especially to the younger generations as the result. The web was no longer limited to the business environment and grew to harbour more recreational activity.

A defining factor to the iGeneration is the progression from schooling and institutionalised academia into professional circles and environments. Because the iGeneration harnesses their knowledge of the importance of technology this enables them to advocate major changes to culture in their respective industries.

Industry has not been unchanged; it is rare to find a profession nowadays which does not harness technology to its fullest means.

Some professions have been created as a direct result of the capabilities of the iGeneration - such as online entrepreneurial projects and services of social implementation.

MySpace, the first mainstream social network available for anyone and everyone, was founded, created and developed by older members of the iGeneration. With this a precedent was set in allowing Facebook to be developed in a similar, yet more refined capacity. This in turn allowed Twitter begin its social importance as a separate extension to the 'status update' Facebook provides its users.

The iGeneration is all about communication and its varied language and dialectic manifestations; speech seems no longer important in a world where emails can be sent at the touch of a button, and status updates can publish mood, feeling and current status in an instant.


Yet the industries seemingly untouched by technology, the iGeneration are using their inherent online social skills in progressing vital areas of their industry through public relations, marketing and sales. The iGeneration is conscious of its knowledge; the importance of it within industry and actively engages with new approaches to develop the working environment into something easily engageable and productive.

The iGeneration sets precedents for the uses of technology and understands the limitations of human action and uses technology as an extension of the body through which to be increasingly productive. Smartphones enable the iGeneration individual to perpetually be in the workplace or class should they so wish. The device allows vital and varied communication to others, be they colleagues in business, friends or even enemies.

However members of the iGeneration are also increasingly forward facing; they care as much about personal development as they do about a software update on their phone. Technology enables the iGeneration to self-publicise and to be exposed in a way which may seem attractive to potential employers or even to friends and colleagues.

The iGeneration are the first generation to immerse themselves in the online culture and adapt their social development through technology. There are so many things in their lives which are ruled and dictated by the advancement of technology. The age of majority is almost negated by the technological advancements which have propelled the iGeneration through a maturation process, by being exposed to the harshness and unrelenting pressure of the online social experience.

Those within the secondary label term of the iGeneration in most part have already grown up but as a result, not in the expected way that previous generations of this round-about age have experienced, thus leading to questions around our behaviour, morals, values and perceptions.

However, 'the iGeneration' is a working theory - a way of describing the social and technological advances spurred on through industrial growth which has directly influenced the primary and secondary socialisation of today's youth.

The world has changed and continues to develop on an unimaginable scale. Every few decades, society reincarnates as a stronger, better, more efficient being to that of before. The world as we know it in this brand new millennium has reached, in essence, the penultimate step on the ladder to eternal fulfilment. But, the higher you get, the harder the fall - goes the saying.

The last two decades have seen the greatest shift in communications, opinions, perceptions and societal changes. Whether you are of the Generation Y and you were brought up in the 1980's as we were, or whether you have seen these changes from an additional decade or two - even more, maybe - and have the benefit of seeing the before and after, there should be no doubt in at least acknowledging the major shifts and trends in today's youth.

We are in a time of instant communications, mass media, developing technologies which enable us to speak to each other in a world without borders through the Internet. The vast majority of the planet we live on is connected to every other corner of the globe through a small, inconspicuous flashing box in the corner of the house, and it has simply blended into the background of our lives its initial importance and technological significance now unappreciated and forgotten.


The influences of science and technology have a greater impact on the Generation Y than anybody could have predicted even before the turn of the millennium.

The world has changed; almost to a point beyond recognition. The significance of the impact of technology today will only really be realised with the benefit of retrospect. We can only recognise the achievements we have made today from an objective point of view by comparing it to the technological breakthroughs of the past.

The iGeneration has a major task ahead of them. With some of the creations we have made as a result of seemingly positive change - cyber-bullying is to Facebook or cyber-warfare is to the Internet - they will determine whether that next step on the ladder is taken or whether the fall will be greater and more painful than any other generation has experienced.

And with this comes a major problem for the Generation X in particular, as though the two generations may well share the same street, land or country, be of the same religion or ethnicity and have the same values and beliefs, it will be as if the two speak entirely different languages.

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