I don’t want to grow up

By BroadVision on July 10, 2010

I just came across an article on Mashable today titled “Experts Agree: Gen Y Will Not Grow Out of Social Networking“.

In summary, Pew conducted a survey of Internet experts as part of its “Future of the Internet” study, and 67% of those experts agreed with the below statement stating that social networking isn’t just a fad for today’s digital generation.

“By 2020, members of Generation Y (today’s ‘digital natives’) will continue to be ambient broadcasters who disclose a great deal of personal information in order to stay connected and take advantage of social, economic, and political opportunities. Even as they mature, have families, and take on more significant responsibilities, their enthusiasm for widespread information sharing will carry forward.”

29% agreed with the opposite:

“By 2020, members of Generation Y (today’s “digital natives”) will have “grown out” of much of their use of social networks, multiplayer online games and other time-consuming, transparency-engendering online tools. As they age and find new interests and commitments, their enthusiasm for widespread information sharing will abate.”
You can check out the overview on Pew’s website here. There’s even a cool graph illustrating the results.

I myself am more inclined to agree with the first statement. I really don’t think the current generation’s immersion in social media is going to go anywhere — it’s an integral part of how the internet, and our everyday lives, work for us. Sure, things will change and new platforms will arise, providing people with new tools, functions, features…and as the tools become more advanced, we’ll run into new privacy issues and have lots of debates. But that’s just how it is.

People want to be connected, and as long as there are services allowing them to remain so, they’ll accept the risks associated with having online identities. I think individuals may change the type of information — and how much of it — they choose to share, but sharing itself will remain a key component even ten years from now. The open, engaging, desire-to-stay-networked state of mind will be passed to the next generation, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Part of the argument for the second statement is that as the current generation gets older, they won’t have as much time available to dedicate to social networking; in addition, fears about how oversharing personal information may affect one’s professional life and other behavioral changes will also play a role in the movement away from the medium. I can see the validity here, but I don’t feel that people will shy away completely. As I stated above, the type and amount of information shared may change, but social engagement will continue. Even today, there are plenty of mothers, fathers and professionals on sites such as Facebook who aren’t afraid to maintain their identities in a social space — they simply do it in a more controlled manner.

What do you think?