A mind-expanding article in this week’s New York Magazine titled “Say Everything” attempts to come to grips with a new generation gap, one built largely on the growing disconnect on just what privacy really means anyway. (via Totally Wired, btw.)
Because what weâ€™re discussing is something more radical if only because it is more ordinary: the fact that we are in the sticky center of a vast psychological experiment, one thatâ€™s only just begun to show results. More young people are putting more personal information out in public than any older person ever wouldâ€”and yet they seem mysteriously healthy and normal, save for an entirely different definition of privacy. From their perspective, itâ€™s the extreme caution of the earlier generation thatâ€™s the narcissistic thing. Or, as Kitty put it to me, â€œWhy not? Whatâ€™s the worst thatâ€™s going to happen? Twenty years down the road, someoneâ€™s gonna find your picture? Just make sure itâ€™s a great picture.â€
This is one of THE big disconnects that I think we are just starting to wrap our brains around. It’s absolutely what most teachers I talk to find so incredibly difficult about using these tools, the “putting myself out there for other people to see” part. According to the article here are the three big shifts:
1. They think of themselves as having an audience
2. They have archived their adolescence
3. Their skin is thicker than yours
Whoa. Here are a few other snips to whet your appetite:
When I was in high school, youâ€™d have to be a megalomaniac or the most popular kid around to think of yourself as having a fan base. But people 25 and under are just being realistic when they think of themselves that way, says media researcher Danah Boyd, who calls the phenomenon â€œinvisible audiences.â€ Since their early adolescence, theyâ€™ve learned to modulate their voice to address a set of listeners that may shrink or expand at any time: talking to one friend via instant message (who could cut-and-paste the transcript), addressing an e-mail distribution list (archived and accessible years later), arguing with someone on a posting board (anonymous, semi-anonymous, then linked to by a snarky blog). Itâ€™s a form of communication that requires a person to be constantly aware that anything you say can and will be used against you, but somehow not to mind.
Right now the big question for anyone of my generation seems to be, endlessly, â€œWhy would anyone do that?â€ This is not a meaningful question for a 16-year-old. The benefits are obvious: The public life is fun. Itâ€™s creative. Itâ€™s where their friends are. Itâ€™s theater, but itâ€™s also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends. And, yes, there are all sorts of crappy side effects: the passive-aggressive drama (â€œyou know who you are!â€), the shaming outbursts, the chill a person can feel in cyberspace on a particularly bad day. There are lousy side effects of most social changes (see feminism, democracy, the creation of the interstate highway system). But the real question is, as with any revolution, which side are you on?
I think that question is especially relevant for educators, don’t you?
Laura Deisley says
I am anxious to read the entire New Yorker article, which I will. It is good to see you contemplating and giving voice these past few days to the psychological and sociological implications. No answers, but it is so important to realize there are many questions as we navigate this shift.
Ken Pruitt says
The article does a good job of pointing out that our children are becoming “thick skinned.” Good or bad we need to get more comfortable with discussing “hot topics” with our students. It’s either us(the adults)or them (the millions of unknown internet subscribers.)
This is by far a growing issue in our culture today. With the growth of the internet our ability to communicate electronically has brought about new skills and challenges. Our youth today have a new confidence to express their feelings and opinions openly. While there are some down sides to online communities, our future generations attitude online allows them break threw road blocks and communicate freely and easily. All skills which will come in use later on in life when they are in the job force. As educators we need to facilitate the development of their online professionalism. We can accomplish this by having student turn in assignment electronically. While some educator may not be comfortable with using online programs to share documents. Most of us already know how to use email. This Save us from having to carry all those papers as well. Itâ€™s the aged of electronic communication and itâ€™s us the educators that need to step up and step out into our studentsâ€™ electronic world. Iâ€™m saying we should be as open about our private lives as our students are. We should try to understand this culture shock and figure out how we could better prepare our students for it.
Ken Pruitt says
Here is an AP article about Generation Me.
TechAces-NOT seem to agree with the idea of putting things out into cyberspace may or may not be a good idea.