The last generation

Today, my friend at work casually said something that I thought of as so profound, I had to write about it.

“We are the last generation to ever remember a time when the Internet did not exist,” she said nonchalantly over instant message. Wow. I can honestly say the thought has never crossed my mind. But it’s true. Gen Y, the generation I belong to (born between the early 1980’s and late 90’s), has actually known life before that annoying AOL dial-up tone, before social media websites and blogs, and before RSS feeds all came along. In fact, one of my first memories is my dad sitting in the dining room in my family’s little house in Downington, PA writing his University of Pennsylvania master’s thesis on…wait, you might want to sit down first….a typewriter. If math serves me correct, I remember being about 5 years old at the time, which would have put us at 1992.

It’s crazy to me to think that kids today will never know what it’s like to get all their research for a school paper from a library book or wait for a PHONE CALL from a friend instead of an instant message or Facebook message.

In a CNN article today, Internet privacy and age was discussed. According to research mentioned in the article, younger Internet users are less concerned about privacy and better at controlling access to their information.

Information from a Pew Research Center survey released in May showed privacy concerns actually declines as people grow more comfortable with the Internet. According to the survey, 33 percent of respondents said they were worried about how much information is available about them online, a number down from 40 percent in 2006. Older generations were more worried about their privacy, as they are less familiar with the Internet platforms and settings.

I’ll have to admit, I’m not that concerned. But like the research shows, I too feel as though I have a good control over keeping my information private. If I feel like it is being invaded, I know how to change the settings on whatever site/social media outlet I’m on in order to fix that.

The article mentions a good point from Alice Marwick, a social-media researcher for Microsoft Research, who says that all the concern over privacy originally stemmed from those who weren’t originally using social media themselves.

“As we see more people in their 40s and 50s and 60s get involved…I think we’re going to see much less of this generational schism than we do today,” she said. I couldn’t agree more. Now that my family friends and even my dad – who are all at least in their 50s – are on Facebook, there has been no more talk from them about their concerns with the privacy issue. They finally get it.

Now that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become mainstream for all ages, it will be interesting to see how concern for privacy may decrease. Personally, I’ve come to appreciate social media for the plethora of information it gives us, at our fingertips 24/7. It’s no longer just an outlet to show friends how drunk you got on Saturday night or to update them on where you’re going to eat lunch. I no longer feel the need to keep things private, nor am I very concerned about what people see when they look at my Facebook page.

So as a “digital native” as they say, I can appreciate how to best optimize my privacy and not let it scare me. And I can also appreciate a time when the world didn’t revolve around hyperlinks and URLs. Best of both worlds.


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