Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll

There is another way to look at this shift. Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn't exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones. For someone like me, who grew up sealing my diary with a literal lock, this may be tough to accept. But under current circumstances, a defiant belief in holding things close to your chest might not be high-minded. It might be an artifact -- quaint and naive, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure. Or at least that might be true for someone who has grown up "putting themselves out there" and found that the benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it. [...]

For anyone over 30, this may be pretty hard to take. Perhaps you smell brimstone in the air, the sense of a devil's bargain: Is this what happens when we are all, eternally, onstage? It's not as if those fifties squares griping about Elvis were wrong, after all. As Clay Shirky points out, "All that stuff the elders said about rock and roll? They pretty much nailed it. Miscegenation, teenagers running wild, the end of marriage!"

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38 Responses:

  1. evan says:

    I don't think I will ever understand why so many journalists call it "Livejournal" but never do "Myspace". The capital-J is right there on the front page in a huge font.

  2. xinit says:

    Anyone over 30? Fucking journalists.

    • solarbird says:

      I blame baby boomers trying to forget they're all old now.

      • kebernet says:

        Yeah, you see that a lot now. Mostly, though, I think it stems from "Gen X" being so small, the fact that "we" knew this years ago doesn't really matter. The only generations are the "kids" and the "boomers".

        • solarbird says:

          Also, get used to two decades or so of stories like these, which, in the print version was front of the "lifestyle" section and had a side bar about the cool new approach to remains.

  3. baconmonkey says:

    I've not read the article yet, but I was amused by this confusion between cause and symptom:

    As Clay Shirky points out, "All that stuff the elders said about rock and roll? They pretty much nailed it. Miscegenation, teenagers running wild, the end of marriage!"

    • prof_null says:

      There is no privacy, but there is anonymity. (see my latest postings if you want more detail) . .

      I always thought of the kids at school who went "Oooh! Look at me!" all the time as stupid.
      My view hasn't changed since.

      . . . . and as for sanity, let e know when you get a clear, concise definition. No, seriously!

    • sethg_prime says:

      Also this: "Whenever young people are allowed to indulge in something old people are not allowed to, it makes us bitter. What did we have? The mall and the parking lot of the 7-Eleven? It sucked to grow up when we did! And we're mad about it now."

      He's got me there.

  4. rly says:

    I'm 23 and my LJ account is pretty much the only thing I use at all regularly anymore that isn't linked to my IRL name. Though all my posts are just mirrored from my WordPress install running on my domain which is my name with a dot and a com.

    And even the most thorough Googling won't turn up my old entries because my old account got permasuspended, so it's also purged from all the web caches that I know of.

  5. mackys says:

    "In the future, everyone will be famous - but only for 15 minutes."

    (Yeah I know, that's not the exact quote.)

  6. saltdawg says:

    Long live Theodore Kaczynski. Or at least his belief system. Or at least the "default" Unabomber costume at the last minute on hallow'een night.

  7. ammitbeast says:

    I'm glad baby boomers guard their privacy and don't spew their nasty beer-gut and cellulite pix on MySpace.

  8. pygmalion says:

    I think in future privacy will come from the fact that there is so many cameras and so much information to go through, no one will bother to look at you. Personally, I love theNew York Surveillance Camera Players.

    But right now, I am just picturing you belly flopped on your bed in fuzzy slippers writing "Dear Diary, today was really MY day...."

  9. kousu says:

    Even if it's just me, going back and Googling myself in 25 or 30 years.
    I find this entirely disorienting. Livejournal will crumble before then, probably even google too, so it's not realistic.. still, the thought that our information could become stone is trippy.

    • jwz says:

      DejaNews crumbled, Google bought the ashes. Bits are hard to kill; they get smaller all the time.

    • baconmonkey says:

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      • kousu says:

        The wayback machine are already are straining--try searching for anything from after 2000 (maybe even 1998). They are fighting an exponential battle, so they'll never catch up.

      • g_na says:

        Heh, still works. But it's still a lame-ass (yet up-to-date) portal page.

  10. So, David Brin is the new Abbie Hoffman?

  11. ladykalessia says:

    I think there's a whole generation who've given up on the idea of "privacy" and have instead bifurcated their data footprint. (At least online. Can't speak for other media.) You now have your "home" email address, and your "business/family" email address. You have your handle, and you have your real name. Eventually it becomes a matter of persona management, as schizophrenic as it sounds. You ask yourself 'would I mind my employer finding out about this?' and use the appropriate profile.

    • ahruman says:

      ...which will, eventually, blow up in your face. I learned this early, and don't try to be anonymous on the interlink. The more you think you're anonymous, the worse off you'll be when it turns out you're not.

      • ladykalessia says:

        I don't think any of us have any illusions about the fact that the machine can, and will be used against us. I think it's more a matter of keeping the idly curious from figuring it out, or making it a resource-intensive hunt that may involve the legal process to connect the two. Generations of fetishists have managed it - it's become more difficult but not impossible.

        Alternately, you know, never become any flavor of public servant and/or keep your illegal stuff off the intertubes.

        • jmtd says:

          Interesting points. I've recently become aware that I don't really have much of a firm belief in privacy (maybe being a sysadmin has something to do with that). Recently I've had reason to create private data and so I've started encrypting stuff.

        • cow says:

          And, also, manage your risk--"is what I'm posting worth posting if my employer/my family/whatever find it?" In my case, for most things, I personally don't care if they find it, so yes, it's worth posting.

          I keep this link at the top of my journal because I feel xkcd said it better than I can. :)

          (It's worth noting I'm a tech worker in the Seattle area, so there's very little I can do that would actually shock my employer. Hooray for not-as-prudish cultures!)

  12. jkonrath says:

    I find it no coincidence that the generation of people posting every minute detail of their lives online is also the same generation that had a camcorder aimed at them for the first six or eight years of their life. When your parents think your life is so important that they videotape your baths and meals and you have a tape of your own birth, you will probably think every trip to the mall to buy new clothes is worthy of a blog post to the world.

    • very profound. I agree.

    • mooflyfoof says:

      Interesting point, though I'd like to mention that I grew up in a fairly low-tech house (didn't really even have TV), with no camcorders and I still post mundane crap to my Livejournal. Though I've noticed that as I've gotten older, I post less of it.

      • sheilagh says:

        But do you post the massive amounts of pictures and sound (near all of it terribly lame) to your journal? MySpace facilitates that multimedia mayhem approach... Saying you post a lot to LiveJournal just outs you as intellectual :)

  13. handyman5 says:

    I went to high school with the guy.

    I'd always wondered what he wound up doing...