The Myth of the Tech Generation

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Rosie Tallant and Harvey Parkin explain why youth does not equate to technical genius

Since the rise of WiFi, FaceTime and the tablet computer, digital interaction has leaked into all aspects of everyday life, making it a case of upgrade or go home.

Who are the ‘tech generation’?

If you believe anything you read online, you’ll think that there is such a thing as the ‘tech generation’, a group consisting of technological geniuses between the ages of 0 and 25. This, of course, is the only age group capable of operating anything with a touch screen and the only one obsessed with keeping up with the never-ending waves of upgrades and add-ons.

According to the Telegraph online, 80% of under 25s feel ‘lost’ without technology and many use it in all aspects of their lives, including the diagnosis of illnesses. The New York Times, however well-meaning, has also been drawn into this idea by offering advice to older readers on how to use mind-blowing pieces of tech such as the tablet computer. Apart from being more than slightly patronising, this is also wholly unnecessary, and we’ll see why shortly. The widespread misconception that all people under the age of 25 are technological geniuses has also featured in a range of recent films, such as The Social Network. This spectacularly titled epic features several college nerds who solve the problem of their social ineptness by developing the most annoying aspect of the Internet to date: Facebook. There’s also the marginally more interesting Cosmopolis, in which Robert Pattinson tries and fails to shake off his vampire reputation by playing with computers in a limousine for a really long time.


All of this seems to suggest that only one age group (aka the tech generation) are using technology and that they all use it in the same way, for the same purpose. As this is clearly not right, we thought we’d try and shed some light on what is actually going on in our technological lives by doing a little survey. We wanted to find out whether people over 25 had heard of the Internet, if they owned a phone and if they preferred the automobile to the horse and carriage, so we asked them a few questions and this is what they said:

We love iPhones more than you

The iPhone was the clear favourite of respondents over the age of 30, which suggests that they’re just as up to date with smartphones as their younger counterparts. The under 30s actually preferred Samsung’s products to Apple’s, probably because it’s less mainstream and they knew Apple before it was famous. The over 30s even said they’d had their smartphones for longer than some of the under 30s, some of whom had only bought one in the last 6 months. By contrast, all respondents over 40 had owned theirs for at least 2 years.

We actually use our phones to speak to people

The 5 phone functions used most often by people aged 19-30 are: messaging and emailing, the Internet, social networking, photography and music. Whether or not this is surprising, it is undeniably ridiculous. We have entered a time in which some people are more likely to use their phones to take photographs with than to talk with. A special mention must also be made for the person in this age group who stated that they would set their phones to vibrate and watch them battle to the death, on a daily basis. As a sane contrast to this, those above 40 use their phones for voice calling more than anything else and those aged 31-40 prefer messaging and emailing, the Internet and voice calling. Even respondents aged 16-18, who are best known for staying in their rooms and not speaking to anyone, listed voice calling as the most common use of their phones. After all, it is a phone; the clue is in the name.

We buy rubbish online too

Impulse buying has become so much easier since the creation of the app, and thanks to Amazon and E-bay ill-advised purchases are just a few taps away. Looking at the trends of people shopping online it is quite hard to distinguish a true pattern, as almost everyone in each age group shops online at some point. Respondents from our survey aged 31 – 40 shop online the most, with a large proportion saying that they do so on a weekly basis. Comparing our research to that found on the internet, we have a similar trend, as supposedly 85% of web users shop online in some form, with 27% of the world’s consumers shopping via the Internet. With the web becoming more and more accessible to more and more people, a total of 74% of the world’s population now have access to it, making us more interconnected and giving us the feeling of a shrinking world, as any product may be just a few clicks away, but could come from half way around the globe for next day delivery. This is clearly an opportunity that appeals to all age groups, as the majority of respondents said that they shopped online every month at least.

We are not scared of tablets

The touch-screen function of tablet computers has been described as ‘intuitive’ and ‘natural’, an idea that combines nicely with their name to give the impression of a piece of tech so accessible that cave men probably used them. Although their Star Trek-like technology has made them the envy of every pseudo-sci-fi hipster around, they have also become hugely popular with older consumers and every respondent in our survey over 40 said that they owned one. Perhaps less surprisingly, people aged 16-18 are most likely to own a games console, whilst those aged 19-30 are most likely to own an MP3/4 player and those aged 31-40 prefer laptops. Unfortunately, an element of stereotyping does enter our findings at this stage, as the 19-30 age bracket own an average of 3-4 pieces of tech, not including a smartphone, whereas all other age groups only own an average of 2. Some respondents in this bracket also said that they use their phones for over 10 hours every day. Presumably not for talking, though.

We had tech before you were born

When asked what piece of tech they first owned, our ‘tech generation’ respondents came up with a wonderfully nostalgic spectrum (reference intended) of responses. The sheer bulkiness of some of these can only truly be expressed through images, so we’ve decided to round up this post with a mini-gallery of tech from yonder year. We’ll start off with the oldest pieces of tech and work our way up to the glorious 90s:

The BBC Computer


The cassette player


The ZX Spectrum


The CD Walkman


The Gameboy


The Nokia 3310


The Playstation 1


The Tamagotchi






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