If you were born before the 1980s, you probably grew up listening to mixtapes, not browsing the Web. But does the fact that you weren’t born in the digital era make you a less of a digital citizen and more of a digital tourist?
This question has long existed in academia and is now surfacing in our professional and personal lives.
In 2001, scholar Marc Prensky coined the term Digital Natives to describe people born into the digital age and indigenous to new networked technologies. Digital Immigrants, on the other hand, he categorized as people who had to adopt these technologies.
Even if you weren't born in the digital era, there are things you can do to become a digital citizen. Here are a few of them:
Find Your Voice and Speak Up
The first step you should make in the digital world is finding your voice. Reconcile your different offline identities and make a decision on how you want to present yourself online. Are you an independent publisher, local hotel owner or a social media rookie? What is the most efficient way to reach your target audience based on your specific industry?
"Just because someone is a 'native' (i.e. born somewhere) does not really mean that they're necessarily going to understand or align with the cultures and values," said Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot's co-founder and CTO. You, however, have already accumulated certain cultures and values. Now is the time to voice them.
Contribute Value Whenever Possible
Your knowledge base and online reputation often correspond to the value you offer. No matter whether you were born in 1967 or in 1990, if you share remarkable content, you will be recognized by the community. "What we have learned as a society is that when a system is open, it attracts people who are passionate and will contribute value," said Dharmesh.
So, pursue your industry-specific interest and contribute to, for instance, art forums, marketing webinars and healthcare blogs.
Don’t Hide Your Digital Accent
Don’t view your traditional approaches to the Web as necessarily disadvantageous. Maybe you still print out documents to edit them with a red pen. Maybe you still call your colleagues to inquire whether they received your email. These are all examples that Marc Prensky listed as Digital Immigrant accents.
Yet these accents are indicative of your culture. They connect you with like-minded people and facilitate an entire generation’s transition to a more digital world. And sometimes they quite legitimately challenge the Natives’ fixed assumptions about the Web.
Interact with the Online Community
Constant interactions with the community help you stay on target and up-to-date with latest trends. By actively participating in conversations, you are immersing yourself in the digital culture and soaking up valuable information. Not coincidentally did Monster's founder Jeff Taylor create a community site for generation Boomers. It was spurred by the demand for conversations with like-minded people. Such interactions progress your thinking and help you generate better ideas.
Lastly, if you were born prior to the digital era, you remain the Digital Natives's only connection to oldschool phunk. Make sure you preserve it!
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