‘OK, Gen Xer!’ Why So Much Animosity Between the Generations in AV?

Industry professionals question the need for the annual 40 Influencers Under 40 list and accuse me of being ageist for creating it.

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‘OK, Gen Xer!’ Why So Much Animosity Between the Generations in AV?

We launched the CI 40 Influencers Under 40 in 2014 as a way of celebrating and highlighting the young talent in the AV integration world. It quickly became one of our most popular annual features and is the most well-read thing we publish every year.

I’m grateful for that, even though I was never young enough to qualify for the 40 Under 40 even in its first year—even with us stretching the “under 40” part to include a few 40-year-olds whose influence on the industry just couldn’t be ignored despite them adding an extra candle to their birthday cake.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise to me this weekend when I found myself on the receiving end of an accusation of ageism as the motivation for publishing the 40 Under 40 for the past six years—with lucky number seven already in development for 2020.

Sure, it’s Twitter and everything on social media should be taken with a grain of salt, but I couldn’t believe there are people who are so upset by our decision to compile a list of rising stars in the integration space that they’d think there was a sinister motivation behind it.

A couple of years ago, a formerly loyal CI reader blocked both me and the CI Twitter account because he said we spent too much time writing about and focused on young people and not enough time writing about people from his/my generation.

I tried to point out that a great majority of our monthly magazine covers have featured men and women in that very demographic—or even older—who are running successful companies and that the 40 Under 40 is a fun and popular feature that isn’t going anywhere.

I’ve found it funny that someone was that upset about us calling attention to young people that they took the step to block our tweets, but everyone is entitled to do what they want with their Twitter accounts, I suppose.

Taking Things Too Far

Being accused of ageism seems to me to be taking this to another level, especially when it’s an accusation lobbed by someone who admits he’s never read the 40 Under 40—or anything else CI has published. As I told him, my and our track record stands for itself.

In other words, we write about people, places and things that are newsworthy, whether the subject is a teenager or someone nearing their 100th birthday.

There is not, nor has there ever been, a conversation about making sure we allocate X amount of resources to people of a particular generation.

Even so, this whole interaction made me think of the “OK, Boomer!” meme, a social media movement meant to convey a fundamental disconnect between younger generations and baby boomers who cling to outdated, off-base ideas.

Even though I’m not part of either of the generations involved in this office politics battle—I’m part of the oft-forgotten Generation X—I still can see there remains an undercurrent of dismissiveness for the achievements of young people in the AV industry in some circles.

Many older people in the industry have finally embraced the idea that they need Millennials for their companies to remain relevant but this experience—and the fact there’s a feeling that singling out young people doing innovative things is tantamount to ageism—is frightening.

I told the person who accused me of ageism that his attitude toward the 40 Under 40 and other efforts that single out young people’s accomplishments is part of an industry-wide problem. He said that proves I’m “triggered.”

I told the person who accused me of ageism that his attitude toward the 40 Under 40 and other efforts that single out young people’s accomplishments is part of an industry-wide problem. He said that proves I’m “triggered.”

Can I get a Millennial to explain what that means?

It’s not like we’re saying all young people deserve inclusion on the list–although I certainly stuffed more than 40 into the list a few times before reverting to the original intent with this year’s honorees.

This is certainly not a widespread sentiment and there’s less of an objection to highlighting the good work of young people today than there was even a few years ago, when Millennials were the butt of a lot of jokes at trade shows and conferences.

But clearly there’s a lot of work to do on this front, and I applaud those who continue to do it—and I promise you we’ll continue to tell you about it when young people, old people or middle-aged people like myself do something well that could teach you something.