Once upon a time when someone suggested a support system, they referred to a nuclear family, maybe grandparents/aunts/uncles and a school guidance counselor. If he/she was lucky, the support system may have included a friend’s parent or a neighbor that secretly made sure the kid next door didn’t run out in front of a speeding car.
Today, hundreds, maybe thousands of miles separate families. Schools are overcrowded and budgets have been cut so drastically that just getting an appointment with a guidance counselor may be a greater challenge than a comfortable conversation.
While it’s widely recognized that lifestyles turned inside out with the expansion and popularity of electronic communication, there are other factors that demonstrate that young people enjoy a broader support system than their parents did, and not all of it originates from the World Wide Web.
Often identified as Generation Y, The Net Generation, Millenials, Echo Boomers and iGeneration, this group is defined more by media, pop culture and market research than the year its members were born. For this purpose, I spoke with individuals born between 1976 and 2001, a common time span.
What is surprising is that while this group of 20-somethings has most every bit of information at their fingertips, it’s not one that constantly demands bigger and better, a trait that is commonly shared by generations before it. This generation saw their parents committed to one or two jobs for their working lives only to become unsatisfied or unemployed. The generation before this is one developed a reputation for being self-obsessed and driven by stature if not money, simply by title.
Generation Y grew up with the Internet. It realizes that it has control. Members of this group know they can navigate their own professional and personal course, all while they build and sustain relationships with family and friends.
While one generation made a beeline for independence that often resulted in frayed ties with family and friends, this one has made connecting with others a priority. This change in attitude and growth of a better-educated workforce has forced businesses to incorporate work-life balance practices into their benefits packages. Instead of paying them wages and health insurance (the latter which is increasingly being removed from company expenses), businesses offer perks such as continuing education, access to health/wellness programs or remote work opportunities to their young talent in an effort to keep them happy. These businesses, many of which were built on the premise that 99.9 percent of their employees’ time was committed to the enterprise, also came to realize the importance of family and friends to this generation and know that if they don’t accommodate them, they’ll lose them. The latter option can be costly for a business.
Ryan Stephens, who recently relocated to Charlotte, N.C., said that there are reasons why he believes he has a stronger support system than those born before him.
“I think there are a couple of distinctions. One, our parents, grandparents, etc., seem to want to have a larger role in our lives,” Stephens said (http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/). “Provided that they’re not doing it for us — and I know plenty that do — I think it’s great. When I am really conflicted, my parents do a great job of talking about important issues with me.
“It’s a completely honest process, no posturing the way you might with friends or colleagues.”
Andrew Nathan also said his family is his greatest bolster.
“My family is my most important support system,” Nathan said. “Whenever something is weighing heavily on my mind I know I can speak with my parents or fiancée. Additionally, I have a number of close friends that I can also always count on.”
Social networking with services that include Facebook (http://www.facebook.com), MySpace (http://www.MySpace.com), Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) has added yet another dimension to the way people help and support friends, colleagues and family. Even males, tabbed throughout history as rough, tough and independent to their cores, are finding value among like-minded people they meet through these and other social media outlets.
“I typically think of my friends and family as my primary support, but I also think that people I’ve encountered online via social networking are capable of being support systems as well,” Stephens said. “They are unique in that they can be a bunch of niche support systems. I can connect with the Brazen (http://www.brazencareerist.com) crew to be my support system on all things GenY, and guys I interned with for Seth Godin for innovative thought and action.”
Stephens is modest about the support offered by those in remote locations.
“I am flattered that many others have reached out and connected with me. For others to see me as influential in this space is very humbling, and helps keep me passionate about pumping out content and continuing to expand my online support systems.”
Gail Sideman is a publicist born toward the end of what is known as the Baby Boomer generation. Despite learning how to write with a pencil and pen, then graduating to a typewriter in college, she enthusiastically embraces all that’s electronic, and is enjoying the benefits of social media. Find out more about Sideman at http://www.publiside.com www.twitter.com/PUBLISIDE and Facebook: 701444938