Great article in the May 15th issue of the New Yorker on Facebook.com, the “everybody’s on it” connective site where the majority of kids at top colleges post biographical info and interact with friends.
There are many amazing points of interest in the story for savvy online marketers… especially if the 18-to-26 age group is in your target range.
What struck me most vividly, however, was the sudden realization — sudden for me, anyway, as a privacy-obsessed Boomer — that the new generation coming up the ranks has almost zero fear of posting very personal information online.
They’re comfy with it. They grew up online. When they say they just “talked” to someone, they actually mean they just instant-messaged her or texted her on their cell-phone. No actual “verbal” skills were required or used.
How this virtual social interaction plays out as these kids mature and enter the workforce will be fascinating. Friday, I attended a big awards banquet for local business (not generally my idea of a hot evening out)… and the guest speaker, a very funny and with-it guy, trashed the work ethics and social skills of younger workers. What he said was witty, and thought-provoking… but eeriily similar to what my generation heard thirty years ago from disapproving elders. Only, back then, it was feared that too much television-watching was stunting our ability to play nice with others.
For the generation before mine, it was comic books. (Congress actually held hearings on the danger that Mad magazine posed for youth, and passed laws. That’s why every comic book you’ve ever looked at has that lame “seal of approval” on it.)
For the WWII gen, it was swing music. Before that, women’s sufferage. And on and on.
Personally, having a nephew in college right now gives me a little honest insight to how this fresh generation is faring. And they’re just fine.
But, yes, their comfort with online life is changing their behavior, in subtle ways. And not all of these changes are good — this generation, at least in the States, has been starved of some much-needed info about certain aspects of living in the real world — like competition, the facts of life, and, apparently, the reasons our forefathers tried so hard to protect everyone’s privacy.
Call me naive… but I’m a little nervous about the so-what attitude so many people have about privacy issues lately. It’s more than a little alarming how readily people are willing to just shrug off the domestic wire-tapping bullshit now going on, for example.
I mean… you’re going to trust the government to do the right thing with all this info?
Sometimes I think the rest of the place has gone bonkers.
Makes me feel lonely.
Still, it’s important to stay on top of insights like this. As go the ethics and morals and ideas about privacy of the college generation… so goes business, in a few years.
So, just put this little tidbit — about the huge new up-and-coming (and totally wired) market being comfy sharing personal info — into your “Hmmm” file.
After all, that simple observation was enough to make Facebook.com — something created in a friggin’ dorm room over a couple of long weekends — worth around $150million right now. With buy-out offers from Google, Microsoft, and Rupert Murdock.
And on that note… I’m gonna sign off and go do something very, very private.
While I still can.