Sociologists have been said to have a deeper understanding of social phenomena than the practitioners of any other discipline. This is mostly because Sociologists deal with such intricate aspects of everyday social life, that most people fail to notice as a specific phenomenon. One such everyday phenomenon is generation gap. Generation gap is generally perceived as difference in values, attitudes, opinions etc. between people of different generations. But is it a noteworthy thing? The answer is Yes. It can be perceived in daily lives of people in families, in the office, on the street, pretty much everywhere. And it is a complex and interesting thing omnipresent in our lives.
Why does generation gap happen?
The difference in values and attitudes result from difference in their indoctrination to these values and socialization. And social condition shapes the values and attitudes of its time. It is very interesting to note that there is a notable difference in attitudes about expected behaviours of couples in public. Indians in the 60s considered embracing of couples in public a shameful act. The number of joint families in the 1960s was also way more than it is in 2020. So, couples were expected to refrain from any public show of love even in their joint families. But with the growing number of nuclear families and rise of the urban lifestyle, public embracing of couples has been destigmatised to a certain extent. Now, the 2020 youth might feel a public show of love for his/her partner is nothing to be ashamed of, whereas the man in his 60s now might feel enraged that today’s youth have crossed all boundaries of shamelessness. It is a natural feeling for both the age groups, because their values are completely shaped by the specific time they grew up, and the social currents affecting them.
Technological cause of generation gap
Technological development of an age also give rise to difference in culture and the value system. Inventions like smartphones and 4G network have suddenly provided a level of speed and efficiency in our daily lives, and its corresponding change in the values. For example, the perception of learning with books and paper and pen has undergone profound transformation with the onset of online classes in schools and universities worldwide. Thus, the understanding of mobile phones as a mere method of communication has graduated to the indispensable lifeline that is the smartphone, which is also the major means of teaching learning activity today. Smartphones and digital presence have brought profound cultural changes. Digital connectivity is fast eroding personal relationships where people went to see each other in person. Instead, automated messages or GIFs are circulated in social media and messengers for the same occasions. Today’s youth spend considerable part of their days browsing through social media, and their value system has been tuned with connectivity through the web. Older people often find this behaviour of the millennials as flimsy, irresponsible and detached. The gap in both the generation’s values prevent them from coming to a common ground.
Is generation gap psychological?
Generation gap has often been depicted as a psychological phenomenon, where the younger generation has been accused of a careless youthful attitude, where they don’t respect the values of the older generation, and love to act on their heightened adrenaline. Similarly, the older generation has been accused of orthodoxy and lack of open mindedness. But I have advanced several arguments in this article to prove that generation gap is unmistakably social, and I further argue that it has not anything to do with the psychology of the individuals. A specific time period gives rise to values and emotions that are obsolete at a former or latter time. The difference in values in two separate time periods may vary so much that they might appear contrary.
How values of different time shape the attitudes towards things
Presently, the world is gradually being aware of environmental degradation and the effects of global warming. In this respect, the inspiration from and imitation of developed countries has transformed in view of their increased carbon footprint. Environmental sustainability is increasingly given more importance in every country. This consciousness of protecting the environment has given birth to new and changed values. This awareness and sensitivity to the environmental cause is a unique aspect of the contemporary time, unknown and unthinkable 25 years back. A person belonging to an older generation might think it alright to burn garbage as a means of getting rid of waste materials and keeping the house clean, since he has never been raised in the consciousness of environmental conservation, and never had the need to think of the emission of different gases resulting from burning of different objects in the garbage. However, the values of a person raised into a consciousness of conservation dictates him never to commit such an act, and possibly prevent such action by others, he might also advocate keeping it inside the house until the garbage collector arrives. The difference in value system both the generations were socialized into are contrary to each other, and hence, the same circumstance is experienced differently by both.
As a concluding remark, I argue that generation gap is not homogeneously experienced by everyone. Since the different cultural values one is exposed to shapes one’s beliefs and attitudes, generation gap between two generations is widened when contradictory social values of two different time periods are in strife.
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