"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L.
Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment, p. 277
Even though Socrates likely didn't say that, the sentiment is the same: Older people love to predict what they think kids are going to be doing with their lives.
Last week's Pew Internet and American Life Project report on "millennials" is no exception. "Millennials" are people born 1980 or later, meaning people who are now 30 or later. They've grown up with the Internet and social networking, and Pew wanted to know how they'll act as they age.
However -- perhaps thinking of the Marshall McLuhan quote, "I don't know who discovered water, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a fish" -- instead of talking to a bunch of millennials, Pew talked to a bunch of old people.
Granted, these were special old people, experts in their field, some of whom had been on the Internet longer than Millenials have been alive: Clay Shirky, Esther Dyson, Doc Searls, Nicholas Carr, Susan Crawford, David Clark, Jamais Cascio, Peter Norvig, Craig Newmark, Hal Varian, Howard Rheingold, Andreas Kluth, Jeff Jarvis, Andy Oram, Kevin Werbach, David Sifry, Dan Gillmor, Marc Rotenberg, Stowe Boyd, Andrew Nachison, Anthony Townsend, Ethan Zuckerman, Tom Wolzien, Stephen Downes, Rebecca MacKinnon, Jim Warren, Sandra Brahman, Barry Wellman, Seth Finkelstein, Jerry Berman, Tiffany Shlain, and Stewart Baker. These are old people I read, old people I respect, old people I quote, and, in some cases, old people who are my personal friends.
Still: old people.
So, what did the old people conclude? Two-thirds of them believe the following: “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.”
Only one-third believed this: “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.”
(The old people had a lot more to say, too; the report is worth downloading and reading in its entirety.)
It certainly makes sense. It seems like a safe prediction: Kids will continue acting the way they are now.
On the other hand, social mores change -- look at what happened with marijuana, which many people thought would be legalized when the kids of the 1960s became political leaders. "In 1970, the major media outlets were bemusedly tolerant of pot," writes Jack Herer in The Emperor Wears No Clothes. "The youth culture was on the upswing and the meek seemed poised to inherit the Earth from the military-industrial complex. By 1983, avaricious, conscienceless “me-generation” capitalism had turned back the humanist tide."
Indeed, after the Pew surveys were completed, Facebook growth apparently stalled, due to some combination of saturation, privacy concerns, or users burning out on the games, according to Media Buyer Planner, in an article -- published the day before the Pew study came out.