Gen Y and Authority

In an earlier article, I discussed Generation Y and its questions, or its attitude toward questions. Recently, I was exposed to another difference between Generation Y and X, or, more generally, those of us who grew up in the world of mass exposure to information and those who did not.

When reading information from any source, we all have a bias toward accepting the information as being accurate without any further research into the topic. In the past, a newspaper or magazine might be considered to be a provider of accurate information. While these sources are [silently] acknowledged to be biased, it was accepted, and rather than dispute the facts, the emphasis was placed on interpretation. As a result, the facts themselves were generally being presented accurately, and a critical reader could distinguish between fact and opinion.

In recent years, the availability of information has changed the landscape of information dissemination. The lines between fact and opinion are rapidly blurred, opinions are being presented as facts, while blatant ignorance of truth is being hidden behind walls of lies masquerading as reality.

Generation Y is used to this type of information presentation. While some are better than others at recognizing the differences, we no longer put faith in the written word. Just because an article has been peer-reviewed does not make it accurate. We look for differing opinions, and want to do our own analysis of the reality (whether or not we’re any good at that is debatable).

When someone from Generation Y hears about a new technology that has neat applications, we run to Google to see what people are saying. We check Wikipedia as a basis for our “factual” information. We rarely assume that the presentation was the truth.

That’s not to say we produce better or worse results than assuming the speaker or writer is honest without verification. But it does make for a more critical reader, and with the large number of scams and garbage information being distributed, that can’t be a bad thing, can it?