The Differences between Digital Immigrants & Digital Natives

Jeff Degraff an author for the Huffingpost cites in an article that the gap between the digital immigrants & digital natives has nothing to do but rather, the way these two tribes view the world. Digital natives view the world horizontally with everyone on equal terms, they allude collaboration, sharing ideas, crossing boundaries and for this reason they have grown distrustful of traditional institutions such as marriage, religion and government which do not necessarily favour this view on life.

Digital immigrants are seen to have a vertical view on the world, attributed to be more aggressive, cut throat and meritocratic in their way of life. The benefit of this goal oriented way of life is productivity; Through this, digital immigrants have been able to achieve tasks that required a lot of capital and focus such as landing on the moon, mobile communication and the internet but contrary to this the digital immigrants may have invented the technologies but they did not accurately anticipate the direction or means in which they would be used.

For example, with SMS, technology that was developed in the 1980s as means of quick communication for service engineers to handle outages and replacement parts. Had they imagined that they created the beginning of  a multi-billion dollar industry whereby digital natives would use it to chat and completely replace the phone?

The two world views are necessary, the combination of the two has helped the tribes achieve more together than they would on their own. So what can they learn from each other?

Digital Natives can bring the following to the table:

  • Collaboration across boundaries
  • Horizontal solutions
  • Value led solutions

Digital Immigrants can teach their younger the following:

  • to achieve goals quickly
  • to use focused resources in building things to scale
  • to revitalize or re purpose existing institutions

Generations are simply oppositional in nature, but they do not have to be at odds with each other, Digital natives are value oriented as opposed to digital immigrants who are goal oriented, if they work together, the result would be a world where we have things with both results and value.