Why would someone who is adventurous enough to leverage new communication tools like Twitter, suddenly think they’re too old for their job?
That’s what I first wondered when I heard the news that Pope Benedict XVI was stepping down citing his age as the reason.
Perhaps it was others within the organization that pressed him into the new social media world, rather than his own embrace of it, though. Maybe it even played a part in his realization that he was just not able to perform his duties in the current world.
But, then CNN reported that the pope’s Twitter account would close when he left office and I thought maybe he really was a part of what I call the Digital Generation. In my mind, this refers not to the kids growing up in today’s digital world, but the people I’ve encountered of all ages embracing new technologies. They’re the grandmothers I met in Second Life and the moms who embraced blogging and Pinterest.
At a recent Social Media Breakfast Austin meeting on “How Different Generations Use Social Media,” someone called them outliers. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book of the same name to try to explain the careers of really successful people. At its more basic sense, though, the term describes something that is outside the norm – in this case, outside of the typical behavior of a certain generation.
Sherry Lowry, who represented the Silent Generation, on that SMB Austin panel, is part of my Digital Generation. But, she’s not necessarily an outlier in my opinion. As she described it that morning, her generation rebuilt the U.S. economy after World War II and did so by working together – transparently and collaboratively.
Key aspects of social media or social business have always been transparency and collaboration.
Sherry said the lack of that in the way generations that came after hers did business will lead her generation to one day leave their wealth not to their kids, but to their grandchildren or great grandchildren. They are of generations that also embrace collaboration and transparency and have never known a world without the ability to leave comments on a company’s Facebook page, write an online review of a restaurant, or tweet directly to the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict, it turns out, was probably not part of my envisioned all-ages Digital Generation, although he was a member of the Silent Generation. It was later clarified that the @Pontifex account would not be deleted; leading me to believe that it was indeed the organization, rather than the man, that embraced it. Since his departure, Vatican has deleted the individual tweets and archived them on their website; but the account remains live, “Sede Vacante,” waiting for the next pope to fill it with Instagram pics of communion wine.
And if the humor of that doesn’t offend you, you might also be interested in this mashup from Religion News Service of March Madness and the conclave of cardinal’s voting on the new pope: