(Kelsey Kirchmann) Recently in a Senate hearing on mobile privacy, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) asserted that young people “who are 20, 21, 22 years old really don’t have social values”. This comment has sparked agreement, derision, discussion, and debate surrounding the changing nature of social values and privacy with the expansion of social media on the web. I personally snorted into my green tea. Now I’m usually a Rockefeller fan, but this supposition was a little bit offending. As one of those early twenty-somethings, I can attest that my peers and I have social values, but the nature of those social values is very different than that of previous generations.
With the advent of Web 2.0 applications, young twenty-somethings have come of age in an era of sharing. Some react the same way their parents or grandparents might, regarding social media with suspicion and reluctance. Others use aliases to protect their careers and aspirations from an errant, incriminating tagged photo or post. Most have embraced the over-sharing nature of broadcasting their lives on the Internet, navigating coming of age and defining themselves in a most public fashion. Engaging in these forums helps young twenty-somethings aggregate information, seek out opportunity and connect with people in their social networks. Social media has become an integral part of life.
Some young people do social media better than others- who can forget the harrowing story of Kiki Kannibal and her failure to utilize social media in a healthy manner. Social media provides everyone with a space for self-expression. Often the most extreme forms of self-expression get all the attention in the press. This does not mean that all young twenty-somethings have no social values. Rockefeller should talk to Barack Obama about young people with social values- I’m pretty sure those values helped elect Obama the last time around.
Young twenty-somethings do have social values. The fact that they are willing to utilize web 2.0 applications with limited privacy protection does not indicate a lack of respect or understanding of privacy, it indicates the changing nature of the world. Young twenty-somethings use social networking sites to promote their social values, to follow their passions, and to engage their friends in discussion. Those who use social media most successfully understand the limits of a virtually (no pun intended) lawless public forum for expression, and they also accept that the lack of regulation opens the door for further innovation and faster aggregation of relevant and pertinent information. Young twenty-somethings have social values, but (shockingly) they have evolved with the increasing interconnectedness of the world.