Social Media & The Generation Gap

I’ve deliberately avoided joining Facebook for as long as possible. As an analyst, I harbored a good deal of distrust for that company and its attitude toward privacy. In effect, many of the company’s executives don’t seem to feel people deserve or need to have any privacy. I think there are two reasons for this; one reason is a generation gap. Many people under thirty live their lives on the web. The second reason is that Facebook makes more money if more people’s valuable info is available for advertisers.

Having sworn off Facebook, I found my publisher pushing me to join so I would have more of a web presence. I finally joined and began adding connections to friends and relatives. What struck me was how my old high school group reformed right before my eyes. First one, then a second and third, and then finally virtually the entire group re-established links, including hard-to-find women who had given up their maiden names and thus could not be found via any search engine.

At the same time that people like me join Facebook and begin tweeting on Twitter and establish blogs such as this one, younger generations are swearing off Facebook and even Twitter and moving to other platforms such as Instagram. I’m amazed at the time and effort one 13-year old spends sending out Instagrams. The number of Instagram followers becomes a badge of honor for people such as her.

I think younger people don’t want to be associated with a social network where the older people have taken over. Who wants their mother reading their Facebook page? So, they have gravitated to other social media where the response is even more immediate than with Facebook.

I imagine a time not too far from now (putting on my old analyst/futurist hat) when people under twenty will communicate via Internet chip implants that give them instant access to each other. Scientists are pretty close to translating brain activity into thoughts and words. Imagine simply thinking a message to your friends. The advantages include privacy since your parents can’t look over your shoulder at your screen and instant access.

Imagine now what happens if the web goes down. Suddenly kids will find a overwhelming, frightening silence enveloping them. Without any voices in their head (the subject of an unpublished novel I wrote), the silence will be disorienting.

High school is the most intense emotional period in most people’s lives. Many people never get past high school when it comes to their feelings of self-worth. Sociologists note how when people come together for a high school reunion, they immediately re-establish their old cliques which means there are insiders and outsiders. The former cheerleaders and football heroes basque in reflected glory while the nerds feel like nerds again even though they might have founder stock in Intel or Microsoft and can buy anything in the world they want.

Now it’s possible to recreate high school without having to travel to a reunion. No wonder Facebook is becoming so popular with the older generation while younger people are gravitating to other social media.

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