An Artificial World

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?


An Artificial World