Saturday, January 29, 2011

Millennials, the Internet, and Adulthood

I am 23 years old.  In general, I'm very happy with when I was born - not that I could really do anything about it if I weren't - but I've found that the process of me growing up has aligned conveniently to the progress made in technology.  I feel fortunate enough to remember a time before the Internet.  I remember the excitement of getting a computer in the house.  I remember the first time someone told me about Google.  I remember floppy disks, and that godawful dial-up noise when your modem was trying to access the Internet.  

But I feel equally as fortunate that I was still young enough during the advent of the Internet that it was easy for me to adapt to the new technology.  It became second nature, so it's not like I'm one of those poor Baby Boomers who still has trouble minimizing windows - but I also get to hold on to that quaint little memory of life, pre-Internet.  I get the best of both worlds, and I'm rather happy about that.

It's true; the Millennial Generation (those born 1982-1995) is the first generation to have their worlds cracked open by the Internet.  It has wholly shaped who we have become as human beings - we've had MySpace, LiveJournal, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts.  We congregate on message boards and forums to share our opinions.  The second we wonder about something, we flock to Google to see what we can learn about it.  And most of us have interacted with strangers from far-off places, to find that we actually have something in common, despite the physical and tangible barriers.  We use the Internet in a specific, recreational way, and I can't help but wonder how this generation is going to grow up.

As it is, I feel like I'm one of the Internet Elderly, at the ripe old age of 23.  I guess that's what I get in exchange for being able to still imitate that damn dial-up noise.  But what happens as people in my age bracket grow up?  Are we going to keep our Twitter and Tumblr accounts?  Are we going to keep reading message boards and joining social networking communities?  Will we be married, with kids, tweeting about how we just made a down payment on a house?

I just can't envision it.  The adults that our generation has grown up with haven't embraced the Internet in that way.  They grew up before it could get to them, and so they are content to keep a modest (if cluttered) Facebook page in order keep in touch with old friends, and to play Farmville.  But past that?  Their Internet usage is significantly less, and manifests itself in a completely different way.  I think it was widely regarded that this trend has to do with age alone - young people love the Internet!  Old people don't!  

But frankly, I think this is not quite accurate.  It's not a hallmark of age, it's a hallmark of generation.  The children of Millennials, and their children's children, will be just as hooked on the Internet as we are - if not worse - and it makes me ask the question: what is the social landscape going to look like when the entire world is made up of people heavily embedded in the Internet?

I don't really have an answer for this question, obviously - my crystal ball's in the shop.  But I must admit, I'm wildly curious to see what will happen as my generation ages.  I'm 23 years old.  I'm supposed to be an adult.  But when I have to spend the length of an average work day away from my computer, all I can think is, "I miss the Internet."  That is currently not widely regarded as the hallmark of an adult.

I guess they don't call us the Peter Pan Generation for nothing.  But every generation after us is going to have the same problem, so we're certainly not going to be alone in this.  Will we all just eventually outgrow the Internet, and the way in which we use it to interact with others?  Or will we be forced to negotiate our real life adulthoods with the virtual existences we've built for ourselves in our younger days?  I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.  Page refresh?

Note: If you'd like to read more about the characteristics of the Millennial Generation, I'm linking the Wikipedia page here.  Because, like any respectable Millennial, I use Wikipedia as a major source of information and think it's totally legit 100% of the time.


  1. Ugh, they call us the Peter Pan Generation? I smell jealousy...

    Ok. I have Serious Thoughts about this topic, BUT I am about to go have Thai food, so they will have to wait until tomorrow. :B

  2. OOH GO ENJOY YOUR THAI FOOD. :D I am going to try not to fall asleep, and use my tired brain for things like thinking and writing.


    I don't think it's going to work.

  3. The sound of a screeching modem still haunts my dreams to this day. I don't miss dial-up at all.

    Nowadays I see children in prams with portable DVD players and ten year olds with iPhone's and I pity them. Most of them will never know what it's like to be filled with absolute wonder at all the 'new fangled gizmos' because they'll have grown up with them.

  4. Oh man, I feel so lucky that cell phones became a "thing" when I was basically old enough to have one anyways. And that I didn't have the option of having a MySpace when I was 12. As much as I love my Internet now, I'm ridiculously grateful for my childhood without it. And am equally as grateful that the Internet is in my life now, haha. That timing worked out wonderfully...

    And I could happily live forever without hearing that damn dial-up noise ever again!

  5. New fangled gizmos will always exist, right? They'll just be more fangled and new than we ever imagined!!

    Anyway, I came on here to actually say something of worth? Maybe not.

    Point is - My dear mother, in her early sixties, spends more time on facebook than I do.

    Wait! That's not my point at all.

    What I wanted to say was...

    "But what happens as people in my age bracket grow up? ... Will we be married, with kids, tweeting about how we just made a down payment on a house?"

    Yes! It's already happening. My oldest friend, just bought a house - and how did I hear about this? She made a status update about it. And this isn't the only example, I've had friends our age announce pregnancies, make a wedding photo their profile picture - and of course there's the all important "So Andso is now engaged", which the Social Network would have us all believe was an important turning point in Zuckeyburg's creation of a giant.

    The internet is such a part of our lives now - but I really don't think it will stop us from growing up. Anyway, who's to say that anyone in history was ever truly grown up? It's just that now the fact that people like to dwell in youthful activities is broadcast loudly to all our friends. I mean isn't having children - apart from the procreating and continuing the line crap - just a good excuse to be able to play with toys and blubber incoherently again?

    Watching my parents hanging out with toddlers is enough for me to boldly confirm that.

    The human race is a fascinating, insane, wonderful and beautifully messed up piece of art. I'm not worried about our maturity as a generation - we'll still love, hate and kill like all the other idiots in the past. What I wonder about is our privacy. How is the loss of a personal life going to affect the next generation?

    Hey, do you think people worried about maturity when the industrial revolution kicked in?? ;)


  6. More fangled gizmos! I can't even fathom.

    You raise a good point about the internet removing the illusion of adulthood. Being an adult is really not something that one day just happens to you. Adults are just as lost and screwed up and wandering as teenagers and 20-somethings. There's no handbook, and it's interesting that of all things, the internet would underscore that.

    Haha, So Andso. It took me a second with that one.

  7. Hmm, so. I think that maybe it isn't that we don't want to grow up. I feel like, as Jenni says, things (like the Internet) have changed what grown-ups can be and do. It no longer has to mean 9-5 job and a collar, and people who don't do 9-5 and a collar are not necessarily hippies, freaks, outcasts, starving artists, or other degenerates. The mores of post-WWII polite society were restrictive and each generation before us has tackled them in some way, but it's really starting to show with us, and the kids after us.

  8. Your comment is very intelligent. This makes much sense. (Also, being called the Peter Pan Generation is kind of gross.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...