Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com Your Universe Online
Generation X refers to a group of individuals who are currently celebrating life in their mid 30s to late 40s. Born between 1965 and 1979, the significance for this generation is that they were the first to make the leap from a pre-technological existence to the nearly ubiquitous nature of technology today.
A new study, out of the University of Michigan (UMich), claims that Gen Xers have been able to make the transition fairly seamlessly. In their study, the UMich team stated that members of this generation are likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as much as they are to in person.
The study showed that in a typical month, these adults of generation X reportedly engaged in approximately 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to 74 electronic contacts, either via email or social media.
Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions, says Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of The Generation X Report, and director of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the UMich Institute for Social Research.
The most recent iteration of the Longitudinal Study, which has been funded annually since 1986 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), includes responses from 3,027 Gen Xers, all interviewed in 2011.
Young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking, adds Miller.
The study of Gen X social networks is, according to Miller, important because these networks, also referred to as “social capital,” play an important part in determining an individual’s overall quality of life.
The size and composition of personal networks is both a reflection of cumulative advantage over years and decades, and an indicator of the resources available to get ahead and deal with problems or challenges that may arise, says Miller.
The study also showed that education and, therefore, socio-economic standing played a role in the size of an individual’s social network. Young adults of the Gen X community who had attained Bachelors or Advanced degrees typically enjoyed a larger social network. Conversely, those who did not complete high school tended to revert to the more traditional personal networks and relied far less on electronic networking.
Another interesting find, according to the researchers, is that males in this generation reported more personal contacts than females over the course of a typical month. Males reported 86 personal contacts compared to 65 personal contacts for females. This difference, according to the study, reflects the larger number of hours men reported spending at work. The young women were slightly more likely to visit family and friends, attend meetings in the community and do volunteer work.
The study participants, reporting their face-to-face contacts, showed, on average, visits with family and friends occurred eight times; interactions with co-workers came in at 60 for the month; meetings of social or community groups occurred four times; and volunteer work came in the lowest with only about three hours a month, on average, being devoted to it.
Females, on the other hand, were a little more active than the male respondents when it came to electronic networking. Females initiated 76 contacts per month compared to 71 initiated contacts for males. The breakdown among electronic networking interactions, in a typical month, produced 39 non-work related emails, Facebook logins equaling 23 individual instances, tweeting their friends and followers four times, sending out seven digital pictures and Skyping only once.
This is the first generation of Americans to reach adulthood at the beginning of the Electronic Era, says Miller. So it’s understandable that they should show a substantial mix of traditional and electronic networking as they build and maintain the social capital that will help to carry them through their lives.