Boldly Wired

Great article in the May 15th issue of the New Yorker on, 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 — 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.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

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  • Don’t feel lonly–you’re not the only one whose disturbed about the domestic wiretapping stuff (my thoughts on that can be found by clicking my name). Maybe somebody should set up a non-profit that scours the net (using legal methods only) for personal information that could be used to steal an identity, stalk someone, etc., and then email the “victim” saying, “this is what I could do to you, and this is where I got the necessary information.” I think because nothing HAS happened to these kids, they think nothing WILL. Maybe they could be “scared straight” by a benign stranger before they’re victimized by a malicious one.

  • ken oneill says:

    Privacy .. what does that mean anymore .
    the main thing is when there is nothing to be ashamed of .. what is there to keep private . considder many of these people getting out of college have never had a job .. every thing they have done was done to get into college . so besides schoolwork. the only thing they have to talk about and post on websites .. is their personal stuff .
    ANd many of us have an online persona .. and an offline persona ..and we don’t trust everything people put in writeing .

    As for the government stuff . i don’t trust the government . not one bit . But the government is sceen as incompetent.. Think about it everytime you talk on a cellphone or a regular phone .. every inteligence agency in the world can tap in and hear it ..if you say something interesting .. it ends up in some us beuracrats hands anyhow ..

  • pj says:

    Scary thought indeed… too much info in too many places. Witness the surge in identity theft as direclty ( I think) a result of the willingness to put info down to the belly button lint level on a computer. Go figure.

    If you really wanna get the cold shivers, take a look at the paralell between our on demand get it now infobased society and some of the stuff Robert Heinlien wrote… In story after story, the protaganist is ‘driven underground’ by a few keystrokes that shut of his/her access to money and movement by freezing accounts… not so very far out of the question.

    Oh yeah, ever try to travel withou a credit card?? No car rental, plan tix, hotel room etc for you buddy… Woof!


  • ken oneill says:

    I know this is a late reply. But i have been studying up in this cometition issue. It is a big issue. Most of america is being shielded from Reality. THe reality of how much we acctually have to compete today. No one explaing the numbers. There are 500 million people in india under 30.. They on average are much better educated than in the US . There Is another vast amount of people in china and other nations . Better educated than in the US.

    The only advantage we have right now is the number of people with college degrees and other forms of higher education . Then again. India and china Are quickly catching up. They are also very very very hungry. unlike the under thirties in this country. Who have had most things given to them from debt adicted parents . Who never made their kids work for anything.

    Hurricane Reality will hit eventually .. I wouldn’t wanna be getting out of college with an advanced degree and 200,000 in student loans .

  • Caleb says:


    First off: Glad I finally met you, and wish we could of gotten together over a beer or something.

    You’re so right.

    And may I just add that I’m only 20 yrs old man, but it’s true, the lack of personal privacy in this country is very disconcerting.

    The patriot act? Gimme a break… “patriot” so blatently trying to make it sound like it’s a good thing.

    The phone tapping? At least now they’re admitting to it.

    I’m telling ya man, Orwell’s 1984 started coming true in 2004, this janx is wack.

    I have myspace too though, but I don’t guess I really put much info up on there. althought lots of “personal” pictures from parties, etc… then again, on my website selling my products: I have my address as the contact info, but I guess you do reveal a bit much when you’re an entrepreneur.

    Anywas, thanks for opening the rant gate

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