I am just back from an enneagram training (to make up for the one I completely spaced off last month). It was an overwhelming experience, and I will be unpacking (and writing about) it for some time. In addition to processing new information, emotional insights and friendships, I found myself slipping into marketing mode.
I am no spring chicken, but at 51 I was one of the youngest people there. I slowly realized this as the weekend progressed. This was a group of healthy, active, progressive folks. Until you started talking to them about technology. Many of them said they hated email. They generally thought social media was a waste of time. Any mention of this or that helpful website seemed to be met with a blank look or a disdainful comment as if the internet were the exclusive playground of reality TV fans and air-headed youngsters with nothing better to do.
I got a scholarship to attend this training. Part of the purpose of the scholarship was to help introduce the enneagram to new populations. I love that idea and am even more dedicated to it now than I was a week ago. I’ve used the enneagram with college students and young adults in the past and established enneagram folks are excited about my work and what to help me do more. But how do they expect to do that when they reject the tools “the young folks these days” are using?
It’s the same issue I meet in church communications. The “how do we reach out to more young people” hand-wringing meets the “why do we have to use computers all the time” hand-wringing and all forward motion stops. If it were white supermisists or Men’s Rights Activists or the Home Canning Society saying these things, I won’t care. Go ahead, reject the social media and the internets and all the other newfangled stuff that confused and scares you. Die out. Who cares.
But I care about these things. I truly believe in what both the enneagram and the church have to offer and I want to offer them to more people. And I cannot understand rejecting any method for doing that.
When The Olds (as someone near and dear to me is wont to call them) show disdain for social media, they come across as walker rattling coots talking about the wondrous magic of phone dials. Young people hear that disdain and tune out, figuring any bigger message is just as dated as the messenger.
As an aging Gen-Xer, I feel I can move between these two worlds. Earlier week I helped my manager (20 years my junior) was behind the reluctance some of our older staff member where having to the move from paper to electronic communications. Together we worked to find new ways to talk about it and assure them we were not leaving anyone behind. Just a few days later, I questioned a young pastor’s request for a new Facebook page and maybe an app for his new ministry. I wanted him to be clear about what he wanted for his new project and for all of us to be sure we were using the right media. I am just skeptical enough to not want to use these tools just because they are there.
There are days when I want to shake the folks I think of my peers: Do you WANT to become irrelevant? Do you know what you sound like? It is so clear to me: moving forward is not a choice. It’s going to happen. The train is leaving the station. You can be on it or not.
Of course there are also days I want to shake the younger folks: Holy crap another new thing? Give us a chance to catch up! Do you have to text while I am talking to you? Not everything can be conveyed in 140 characters or 6 seconds. As we move forward together, we need to make space and time for the slower, longer things.
To put a more positive spin on it, I turn (as I often do) to my daughter: “I value being a good citizen in meatspace, so I should value being a good citizen in the Metaverse. To me, that means learning as much as you can about what’s out there, contributing to it, and sharing the results.”