Not too long ago I had a conversation with a few family members about how kids, teens and young adults interact with each other. We talked about neighbors and how not many people know (or care to know) who lives in the house two doors down from them. This was chalked up to the busy lifestyle that has evolved over the past few generations. Then the conversation turned to me. I was sitting at a table with my uncles, ages ranging from 40s to late 50s, and they wanted to know why my generation doesn’t get out and do stuff anymore. I thought about it for a while and I let them know, at least from my perspective, why we have become such an internet-addicted generation. Here’s what I came up with.
1) All our friends are online – While my uncles are out playing golf three times a week with their friends (their idea of socializing) we are at our computers talking to numerous people at one time, checking our Facebook accounts to see what our other friends are up to, and maybe – just maybe – getting a little bit of work done at the same time. The internet has become the social hub of our lives. I certainly don’t mean to imply that no one goes out and socializes face to face anymore, it is sometimes just easier to do it online.
2) We are a fast-paced society – In a society where information is everything and we have news screaming at us from every possible angle, nobody wants to be “disconnected”. Everybody wants to get ahead in our society, and without the most current information it makes it much easier to fall behind. That is why smartphones are becoming such a hot ticket. They allow people to be constantly “plugged in” to the information super highway.
3) Business is going the way of the internet – Since Facebook and other social networking sites have become so ubiquitous, many companies have changed their hiring strategies. In other words, the internet can either make or break you chances of getting a job (or even keeping one). The idea of social capital is very important these days. Before the internet, you would mail in or drop off a resume to a potential employer and they would schedule an interview and meet you face to face for the first time. Now, an employer gets your resume via email, Googles your name and finds pictures of you doing a keg stand naked at a frat house. On the other hand, an employer could Google your name and see that you have an insightful blog, a LinkedIn profile (how professional of you!), and you won a business plan competition in college. The more you care about and manage your online reputation, the better chances you have of being successful in the business world these days.
The last point brought us to another turning point in the conversation: privacy. I was asked, “Don’t you care about your privacy? Is that not valuable anymore?” I replied that it is not so much about being an exhibitionist with everything I do – I may be alone on that point – but being able to get myself and my image into the public will allow me to meet new people and making new connections. They see the internet as a voyeuristic trap … I see it as a helpful tool to becoming well-known. Maybe I’m too young to be able to agree with them, or they are not young enough to see it from my point of view.
Either way I would like to find a way for all generations to become familiar with the internet – specifically social networking – so we can finally be on the same page. What do you think?