Imagining the Internet (5): Millennials

Here’s one that should generate some classroom discussion. How does it feel to be an “ambient broadcaster”? Will you cross a generational divide when you hit 30 and back away from information-sharing ?

Q.5 – Will the willingness of Generation Y/ Millennials to share information change as they age?

A. By 2020, members of Generation Y (today’s “digital natives”) will continue to be ambient broadcasters who disclose a great deal of personal information in order to stay connected and take advantage of social, economic, and political opportunities. Even as they mature, have families, and take on more significant responsibilities, their enthusiasm for widespread information sharing will carry forward.

B. By 2020, members of Generation Y (today’s “digital natives”) will have “grown out” of much of their use of social networks, multiplayer online games and other time-consuming, transparency-engendering online tools. As they age and find new interests and commitments, their enthusiasm for widespread information sharing will abate.

[my answer: A]

Please explain your choice and share your view of the internet’s influence on the future of human lifestyles in 2020 – what is likely to stay the same and what will be different? Will the values and practices that characterize today’s younger internet users change over time?

[elaboration]

“Today’s digital natives have developed habits of mind and behavior that will be very resistant to change. Nevertheless, change there will be, from two sides: life-cycle factors and evolving attitudes to privacy. As Millennials begin to deal with kids and other adult responsibilities, I see them trading in some of their real-time communication (texting, IM, etc) for more store-and-forward options. Instead of spending a lot less time sharing information, they’ll share it differently. A more subtle life-cycle factor concerns a deep qualitative difference between today’s 20-somethings and their parents’ generation. I imagine a great many Millennials are using social software to expedite the process of “finding themselves.” While this pursuit isn’t new, digital media offer powerful ways to experiment with socially constructed identities we weren’t even dreaming of in the 60s. It seems plausible that becoming an “adult” will take away some of the playful experimentation behind all that Millennial information-sharing.

“Then there’s privacy. The demise of online privacy is already well underway. Financial scams, lousy software, human error and prejudicial EULAs are here to stay. What I see changing is a greater awareness among mainstream onliners of the risks are to our privacy, money and identities. I’m constantly amazed at the extent to which otherwise sane, intelligent people are dismissive of precautions like strong passwords. By 2020, lots more young onliners will have learned about the downside of unrestricted information-sharing. Being an adult means having more to protect and more to lose. But this predictable change will be reinforced by a long, slow learning curve for millions of onliners who today have very little understanding of what goes on behind their backs in cyberspace.”

[update]

Jan.3 – Seems like my answer really should have been “B” not “A.”