An Artificial World

April 26, 2010 — 5 Comments

As you can see, my goal for these blog posts is to lead the next generation well. I want desperately to do that. If you share my passion for this goal, go with me on a journey over the next six Mondays, where we’ll attempt to understand the world in which this emerging generation (Generation Y) has grown up in, and how we can invest in them and fill where they lack. I will choose a different word each week to describe them, and define the challenges we face as we lead them. Let’s dig in.

Their world is artificial. This concerns me. Most students spend a regular chunk of time in an unreal world that doesn’t resemble the real one. Kids live an artificial life on Second Life, Facebook, MySpace, or Flickr. While this can increase their ability to multitask, it can also hinder their emotional intelligence. People skills are low, self-awareness is low and the ability to resolve conflict is low. Theirs is an online virtual world that hinders the development of healthy social skills.

Years ago, we began to ask the question: Does life imitate TV or does TV imitate life? Today, the new question is: Does the Internet imitate life, or is it the other way around? Eventually, “Second Life” type of applications may become the new general interface medium for human activity. Are you aware of “Second Life”? It’s a virtual world (accessed online) where an individual can adopt a personality and character (real or unreal) and interact with other virtual characters. You can be Brad Pitt and live near the ocean if you like — what you experience online becomes, indeed, your “second life.”

Examine the fierce popularity of the movie Avatar in early 2010. It grossed over a billion dollars in its first three weeks. It’s the story of people living vicariously through online personas called avatars. That’s what happens in Second Life and similar setups. Users get the chance to look and live lives far removed from their own real-world lives.

And that is the problem in my view. While I recognize this experience can be used for good, such as a virtual school field trip, you cannot build a career via an avatar nor can you have a meaningful relationship. Call me crazy, but I believe it’s hard to build healthy people skills if the majority of your day is spent in a virtual world.

As leaders, we must find organic ways to help the next generation build people skills.

Do you agree?


  • Michael

    Right on, Tim. It’s hard to break through that artificial shell; you try to be “real,” “authentic,” or “relevant” and yet you risk coming across judgmental or prying if you expect the same. Honing those people skills is more difficult when expressing ideas, contributing to the conversation and focusing on the task at hand is not doable for some in the emerging generation. It’s another way they “spend a regular chunk of time in an unreal world that doesn’t resemble the real one.” Oh, I wish I could get lost on a virtual beach and not have to string words together in a coherent sentence. At least there, if conflict popped up, I could turn off the power and walk away.

  • completely.

    i’m a product of the socialization of multi-media and it’s taking a lot of courage to step into the ‘real world’. i have high social anxiety and depression that stems from much social rejection, acceptance issues, and lack of identity. i’ve been investing much time and energy learning about me, and at 25yrs old, i am just starting to plug myself back into the world.

    i feel that social media/internet/television/film/etc. are all good things, but my generation has adopted their truths instead of realizing truth for themselves. we lack substance. if the internet and tv told us that the world was flat we’d know it was true instead of sailing the ocean to find out. we develop a persona with behaviors of characters in the media instead of finding out our true identity. we want to be certain celebrities; not aspire to be like them. huge difference.

    many young people when asked, “what are you passionate about? or what do you want to do with your life?” are left speechless. actually, a more accurate response would be, “idonno”. our generation needs not to be trained how to translate ‘knowledge’ from memory to a standardize test. this has failed us time and time again. with all that we learn from college, what do we do when we graduate? go back home. live with mom and dad. instead, we need understand our gifts, talents, and passions in order to become productive in today’s society.

    in order to add value, we must have an identity. instead of quoting music lyrics and using them as our own words, let us create. we are all capable of making great music, but in all different kinds of ways. how can we be courageous when fear is such a scary monster? what can we do to help us do?

  • Tim Elmore

    MIchael–thanks for your thoughts, especially as you speak for the emerging generation. Like you, I believe the young generation is savvy to the internet and has much to teach older generations. At the same time, I am hopeful older and younger generations can connect to exchange skill sets the other may desperately need. I love it when a Boomer gets connected in a mutual mentoring relationship and the Boomer can pass along people skills and wisdom from their experience. This will only make the new generation even more valuable to the world they will one day lead.

    Tim Elmore

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