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Do you realize how much data has been compiled on you, your habits, preferences, purchases and connections? A front page story in the New York Times Business section 6/16/12 (warning: the actual article is a long one) on a little know company, Acxiom, that collects a huge amount of data on consumers in great detail from their use of the web, purchases online, social media sharing, etc.  Here’s the article link  “You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome”

To quote the reporter Natasha Singer “It peers deeper into American life than the F.B.I. or the I.R.S., or those prying digital eyes at Facebook and Google. If you are an American adult, the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams — and on and on.” She continues later on in the article, “It is integrating what it knows about our offline, online and even mobile selves, creating in-depth behavior portraits in pixilated detail. Its executives have called this approach a “360-degree view” on consumers.” Privacy advocates worry it will it could lead to a new era of consumer profiling.

What’s your reaction: Great opportunity for consumers as well as advertisers or scary?

Do you think the privacy issues are a greater concern of the older generations than the Gen Y/Millennials who tend to be much freer about revealing details of their personal lives and activities.? 

Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com 


The Flight from Conversation” by Sherry Turkle, her opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review, suggests that our connectedness to and by electronic gadgets have changed “not only what we do, but who we are.” I had the privilege of meeting and hearing Turkle speak at the Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, SC in December 2011 on this and related subjects. She claims that people are alone together. “We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one.”

Some examples from Turkle you may relate to:

“We want to go to a meeting but pay attention only to what interests us.”

“Young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones.” Turkle told of a partner at a Boston law firm who described a scene of associates in his office who come in and lay out their “suite of technologies: laptops, iPads and multiple phones. Next they proceed to put on a pair of large earphones. It’s like pilots in their cockpits. There is a silence that suggests they don’t want to be disturbed.

It’s not just enjoying the use of tech toys. Social media, e-mail and texting enable us to present ourselves as we would like to be, which may not be how we are, observes Turkle. We can edit, create avatars, perfect photos. We can clean up messy and demanding human relationships with technology.

Turkle says “sips” of online connection (all of which have their place) don’t add up to a big gulp of real conversation and don’t add up to really knowing each other. Nuance is missing. It’s dumbed down, like watching only cable news headlines. And lack of conversation translates to missing development of self-reflection skills, so we are cheating ourselves as well.

Turkle gave some examples of how some people are seemingly desperate for someone to listen to them but seek out Siri (on Apple’s iPhone) or some other surrogate for the person they really should be conversing with because it’s more comfortable. “We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship,” wrote Turkle.

“I am a partisan of conversation,” she wrote. “To make room for it I see some first deliberate steps.”  She goes on to suggest ways to create device-free rules, times and spaces at home, work and vacation. “Most of all, we need to remember to listen to each other, even the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another,” Turkle stated.

We tend to associate constant electronic communication and being tethered to those gadgets with the youngest generations. Is that actually true? Haven’t older workers caught the fever too? Are they fleeing from real conversation?

Clearly I sympathize with Turkle’s view since the Cross-Generational Conversation group I started and moderate on Linkedin is one conscious attempt to get people of different generations conversing and sharing their perspectives. (Do check it out!)

But is the situation quite as bad as she points out, and how far can we modify the current habits? Here are some questions that come to mind:

  • What would motivate people to adopt device-free actions that Turkle suggests? (in meetings, at home, on vacations, in cars)
  • Are electronic connections keeping us from connecting emotionally?
  • Are many of us avoiding the messiness of relationships and self-reflection in a delusionary effort to seek perfection?
  • Is Turkle’s view an over-reaction?
  • What other questions does this issue raise for you?

Please comment and share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com



Perhaps it’s no surprise that men and women choose to major in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields for different reasons. A study released this month (September 2011) called “STEM Perceptions: Students and Parents Study” by Harris Interactive for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and Microsoft, has some interesting finding on the differences.

The women’s top reason for choosing a STEM major was intellectual stimulation, while men chose those fields for “a good salary out of school.” A huge gender gap was revealed in what led them to their interest. For 68% of the women in the study it was a particular high school class or teacher that they credited with turning them on to the subject. That was true for only 5% of the men. Their experience with related games, toys, books or clubs was a significant factor for 51% of the men but only 35% of the women.

These findings could influence the teaching of the different genders and suggest the importance of high school teaching to attracting more women to the STEM fields. A combination of intellectual stimulation, role models and a welcoming culture would be likely to attract and retain more women.

It is important that those role models and inspirational teachers be men as well as women. How do we make men more comfortable with “sponsoring” women in their field?

Your thoughts?

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com 



According to a new report from Pew Internet and American Life – the 2010 Generations Report – age as a determining factor of technology and social media use seems to be losing significance.  While age continues to play a role in how individuals use the Internet, the Report found that age is no longer key in whether an individual uses the Internet.

The 2010 Generations Report found, among other things, that:

  • Accessing health-related information online is now the third most popular online activity for all Internet users regardless of age. Previously, using the Internet for this purpose had been considered common only among older users;
  • Internet users over the age of 34 were more likely to use the Internet to access government and financial information than those under the age of 34;
  • The percentage of adults who watch video online jumped from 52% in 2008 to 66% in 2010; and
  • Although social media/networking sites continue to be more popular with younger users, social media experienced its sharpest increase among older Internet users; namely, users age 74 and older.
  • These online activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups: e-mail, search engines, getting health information, following the news, researching or making purchases (including travel reservations), online banking, supplying reviews or ratings, donating to charity, and downloading podcasts.

Details about the Pew research results can be found here and here

As the use of technology increases among all demographics, clients will be less likely to hire professionals who are unfamiliar with technology and are non-users themselves. This is a key consideration in working and communicating with clients of a different generation. 

The Pew research documents the belief that we should no longer blindly assume that being tech-savvy means being young. Another piece of evidence that we must challenge our assumptions about age-related capabilities and preferences.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot


Despite the so-called Boomer-Gen Y gap, there is much evidence of natural similarities and synergies. This  belief is backed up by a recent survey by Knowledge Networks for the Center for Work-Life Policy. Laura Sherbin, an economist with the Center said the two generations work together well because they both want autonomy and flexibility.

As reported in "Finding a Guide for Online Networking" by Elizabeth Pope in the New York Times (October 15, 2009), the survey of 1,5 95 people indicated that 40% of older adults had asked their younger colleagues for help with text messaging, iTunes, and social networking. In fact, there is a distinct phenomenon developing for the web-savvy to help their elder colleagues or even strangers build second careers online. Since over 40% of Generation Y participates in online social media, according to the research, they sometimes pick up and refer job leads they come across online to their elders.

The Times article relates some examples of young people helping Boomers and Traditionalists start businesses online. One Boomer interviewed got help from people in their 20s and 30s that she met through her local Chamber of Commerce and BNI International. They even gave her advice on managing clients and setting fees.

What's great about this generosity of the Gen Yers is their eagerness to share information with not only their peers, but anyone who is interested in and appreciates their help. That's got to be an optimistic sign for the future of work. I love it! Let's all, as individuals and organizations, capitalize on this cross-generational collaboration, reverse and mutual mentoring.

Please share examples of this phenomenon whether personally experienced (other than with children) or observed in the workplace.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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