You’ve often heard me say that social media should be more about building real relationships than just ‘friending/liking/following’ a lot of people. That’s why I think Baby Boomers ‘get’ social media better than those who were born into it—because they’re old hats at building person-to-person relationships. And that’s not just because I’m one of them!

We Learned ‘The Basics’ Early

Seventy-six million American children were born between 1945 and 1964, and in our formative years, the most advanced piece of communication technology was the rotary dial telephone. Neighbors still talked over fences, joined in-person social clubs, read the newspaper that was delivered to their door and wrote letters to each other (real, honest-to-goodness letters written on paper and sent out in envelopes with stamps).

These kinds of things might seem old-fashioned and out of touch by younger generations, but I think that upbringing actually gives Boomers the advantage in building social relationships. Why? Because we learned the basics of face-to-face interaction with people at an early age: being polite, shaking hands, looking people in the eye and listening. Those skills were drummed into us from the time we could walk. First by parents, and then reinforced from grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, neighbors, teachers, and coaches. There were no ‘preschool’ classes to teach children how to behave with one another. Mom often stayed home and prepared children for kindergarten with playdates and other family and social activities. Most of what we learned about interacting with people we learned before we were six!

We Understand What Friendship Really Means

Having a friend as a child in my day meant actually playing with someone in the sandbox, having sleepovers and birthday parties, or riding bikes to the nearest mom-and-pop grocer to spend nickels and dimes on penny candy. If you were lucky you kept those friends through school and/or college and deepened the relationship with them over time. There were no video games. There was no Internet. We played outside, got dirty and learned teamwork!

As we got older, those relationship-building skills translated to working relationships with superiors, peers and customers. We instinctively know how to talk ‘with’ each other, so we gravitate toward face-to-face networking situations.

We Take Technology a Little Slower (and that can be a Good Thing)

We weren’t born into today’s technology, but we’ve seen lots of technological changes in our time, including the birth of personal computers, the Internet, cell phones and social media. Up until the last decade, technology moved slower for us, and that causes us to be a little slower to adopt new gizmos and gadgets. However, we bring our person-to-person social skills with us, so we don’t have to be taught how to #justbenice on new digital channels.

Once Boomers ‘get’ how to use social, we’re better at listening, adjusting to situations on the fly, and reaching out in various ways to take relationships to the next level. It’s has to do with the way we were wired from the beginning… but more importantly it’s about experience building relationships and learning how to adapt, that comes to anyone with age and the passage of time.

It’s a shame that so many who follow us didn’t learn the same basic people skills we learned as children. Younger generations have a technological advantage in that they were immersed in digital tech from birth, but a tech advantage isn’t a people-skills advantage. That’s why it’s my mission to re-teach those concepts to people and business today. It’s important that we don’t forget or gloss over them because in the end, it’s all about building human-to-human relationships, no matter where technology take us.

Image: Ed Yourdon

Originally posted at Inside CXM on February 26th, 2015

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