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  • Jeni Smith

Generational Networking: Online vs Offline relationships

Last week my wonderful, and ridiculously talented, friend Holly Peacock-Goodwin sent me an infographic depicting the ways different generations consume media. I'm a geek for stuff like this, and she was poking me to write a blog on the generational differences in the networking world, so of course it's all I've been able to think about since (please don't judge me).


Looking at the ways different generations consume media, access information and engage with the people, gives a huge insight into the ways we're all building and maintaining relationships.


The graph below shows the reasons why different generations were using social media in 2019:

For me the two stand out points on here are the two on the far left: 'to share pictures and updates', and 'to hang out and chat with friends'...


  • Boomers (age 65-75) are using social media to share pictures and updates. Generation Z (20-24) not so much.


  • Generation Z are using social media to hang out with friends and build relationships. Boomers not so much.


To me this says that Gen Z are using social to build relationships, where as Boomers are using it to maintain relationships they already have!

I'll let that sink in for a moment...


You see, Boomers have spent their lives meeting people in the 3D world and got to know them over time. They've made memories together and shared experiences, and their relationships have develop over time. Social media is a way for them to maintain those relationships by sharing content about their daily lives, and keep in touch in between those in-person interactions.

Gen Z however haven't had the chance to build such relationships in the real world, and are using social as a way of meeting people and building relationships from there.


Neither is right or wrong, they're just different right? Well what if one way is causing problems for an entire generation...

Generation Z is reportedly the loneliest generation we've ever known, despite being the most digitally connected. They have access to millions of people yet they struggle to build meaningful relationships.


But why?


Looking at how they're dating, and therefore how they're building personal in-depth relationships, could help give some insight!


Dating has gone digital, and Gen Zers are reportedly spending over an hour a day swiping left or right on potential love interests. People have become disposable. One quick swipe and there's someone new. Swipe again and yup there's another! There's always another option, and not just one but thousands

of options so how can you possibly choose just one?


How can you commit to picking just one person to put in the time and effort that it takes to build a meaningful relationship when there are so many more options out there? (No wonder Millennial couples are choosing not to marry!)


In a blog on generational dating by Elizabeth Nelson she said; "Instead of building longer-term connections with romantic partners, Gen Zers build hundreds of surface-level connections with their numerous followers, creating relationships that are empirically less fulfilling than the more serious relationships undertaken by older generations."


This is reflected in the way the different generations network with more young people shying away from the in-person activity in preference of online engagement. Meaning the younger generations prefer building large online followings, rather than having fewer more meaningful relationships.

A reduction in natural networking ability, a lack of in-person founded relationships, and a disposable social culture has undoubtedly fed Gen Z's loneliness. A loneliness that is leading to multiple mental health issues including depression, self harm, alcoholism and drug abuse.


If you've got a few minutes take a look at Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace, he talks amazingly about the effects of social media and our ability to build meaningful relationships.

(It's really worth watching!)


So what should we do?


Going back to the dating theory, the blog I mentioned earlier also discussed an experiment conducted by Boston College's Kerry Cronin. It looked at the effects in-person dating had on Generation Zers, and the results were amazing!

Students were tasked with going out on a date and writing about their experiences; all of which were positive. Not because they magically fell in love but because they overcame their initial fear of going, they gained social confidence and learnt things about themselves experiencing personal growth.

By facing their fears and stepping away from the safety of their screens, the students were able to get so much more from building new relationships. They learned about themselves as much as they did the other person, and gained valuable insight into bad as well as good parts of socialising. (You need to experience good and bad for yourself in order to know the difference!)


I've had to build and maintain relationship remotely for the past four weeks of lockdown and I'm really struggling I'm not gonna lie. I miss people! If this is what it's always like for Gen Z then I don't envy your youth one bit.


But I do want to help: networking and generally meeting new people in person can be scary yes, but it can also be so frikin amazing and completely worth that initial fear! You'll gain confidence the more you do it, and over time it will become second nature, and soon you'll be helping other start out on their in-person journey.

By putting yourself out there (once we're allowed to of course) and building relationships in person you can give them so much more depth, longevity and meaning.

Networking's not just good for business, it's good for mental health!




If you'd like support with attending networking events in the future, or you work in education and would like to discuss networking training for your students drop me a line at jeni@networkingknowho.com








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