A phenomena to some, a ‘so what’ to others. I’m writing this now whilst sat in a starbucks, on a wireless connection, using a laptop. I’m mid thirties and across from me is a young guy (18) with his laptop too. We acknowledged each other on arrival, but that’s it. He’s playing games and chatting to ‘friends’, and i’m tucking in to a muffin whilst I qwert.
My head has been spinning for some time now about the younger generation and their adoption of being connected 24/7, with people all over the world. I also have been thinking a fair bit about our social interaction and whether high speed public net access is going to increase the number of people we speak to or lessen it over all.
For me, the net is a god send, because without it, I would just be sat here, staring into space. At least now I feel I’m doing something. But another way of looking at it, is I’m out of my house, doing publicly, what I would otherwise be doing privately, and I’m viewable by everyone sat in a coffee shop, I can zone out and stare at my screen, or people watch, as and when I feel like it. As I type now I can over hear conversations around me and I’m being exposed to some piped music that I wouldn’t normally listen to. So in this instance, being connected right now, is a good thing for my social interaction. Some would argue that without this, I would be making eye contact with people and joining in with or starting conversations. But that isn’t true for me. I can’t recall the last time I started up a conversation with a total stranger.
So here I am questioning a technology that’s deemed by many to cut off a generation, when in fact I’m evidence of the opposite. But I’m 33. What if I was 17?
Well lets jump back to that young guy sat opposite to me for a second. He’s doing everything that I am, publicly on his machine and more so. He may be playing an online game with someone (or some people) in another country. The term MMORPGs after all, stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game… and if he is indeed chatting to friends, then they could be anywhere in the world too. Without a doubt I’m certain that he’s doing far more social interaction than I am!
So the thoughts continue to the youtube generation of handy cam owners and movieclip creations on simple software for under 10 mins and made public for friends and strangers to access. Its a ‘Jetsons’ style futuristic thought for many people. But this is the norm now. Its even passé in certain circles. Young people have this availablity at their finger tips and often have known about, and taken part in it, for waaaay longer than I’m sure to have known about it.
This ‘tube’ generation, don’t need to pick up a newspaper anymore… or even listen to the radio. Those old medias are way behind the ‘now’ instant feed, from their very own global source of connected friends constantly searching and scanning the internet for the latest updated blogs, feeds, opinions and videos. Music isn’t found by thumbing through hundreds of CDs on a wet saturday afternoon, its bulletined around a network of thousands instantly, and available for streaming download faster than it takes to create the track in the first place.
Everythings changed, but everything is still changing. And none of us can keep up and none of us will be able to keep up. Just like when idle computers link up across the globe to process some massive calculation, we have millions of the most powerful computers in the world (our brains) connecting up together and sifting through every last detail of public content to share. Its become a race for some, no-one wants to be on the receiving end of forum flames stating how ‘old’ we are with the latest news. A race to be first with something incredible that just been made public is like the ‘grail’ on the net. Its a confirmation to peers that a person is on the top of his game, a person with knowledge is a person with power and with that comes popularity and all the hangers on that dream of achieving a similar found social status from a generation that has to fight to create a voice in an environment that largely tries to silence them. I can’t blame the younger generation for wanting to stay indoors can you?
Whilst so many of us are attempting to enforce the rule that fresh air and heathly eating is king… ‘get off your backside and get outside’ … this generation already know that. They aren’t the stupid ones. They have ‘rules’ and moral codes that most of the planet aren’t even aware of.
Simply put, the more young people that are connected the better, they have a new found freedom, which is being pushed and stretched as far as they can. Many people can’t see it, because they choose to ignore it and continually stress how the ‘old days were better’.
Well bollocks to that I say. Now, activities and information, skills and opinions are a double click or less away. Its a planet without borders, where a universal language is spoken. I wonder how much of the english language has accelerated since the introduction of the internet in the home? I bet its a huge leap. Some one must have measured it surely?
The more I think about life in the year 2000+ the more I am jealous of everyone 20yrs younger than me. Sometimes I think I was born too early, and other times I think I was born just right to be old enough to be taken seriously, yet mentally and physically young enough to be able to interact with people half my age.
One things for sure, now people don’t need to wait for the wheels of production to move before information can spread to the interested parties. Printing presses don’t have to be started, marketing campaigns don’t have to be planned out, distribution rights won’t take anywhere near as long, and packaging in some areas has almost become completely unnecessary to a certain degree.
Where will the young mind with all this access go next?
Well the skies the limit and the limit is infinite and with figures like Google and Myspace racking up billions of hits and 100s of millions of members, we’re still only scratching the surface.
It didn’t seem like that long ago, people spoke of every home having a computer, then it was every home having an internet connection… and now its every home having a super fast internet connection. What next? Once we’ve all got this super fast connectivity, we’re already being lined up to have the current ‘old media’ of television shoved down our phone lines and piped wirelessly through our walls. But is that it? What’s beyond that? Entertainment is such a small part of what we do. Interaction is everything.
I’m certain the emphasis will move to communities. ‘Second Life’ is an example. Google it if you’re unaware what it is. Communities are everything, communication is everything, people are everything. This phase of ‘wowing’ people with interactive media and brightly coloured animations is so ‘passing’. Its a gimmicky ‘feature’… communities are where its at. Create a place where like minded people can gather, share and feel at ease, and you’ll have the world. You’ll have a loyal base. You’ll have the new web brands of the future. You’ll have access to everything they know and love and they’ll be content to share with you their hard earned cash too.
If Tescos can move into car insurance, and Marks & Spencer’s can issue credit cards all on the back of their brand power. What do you think Myspace and Google can achieve.
If Google opened up a high street shop with blacked out windows and not a hint of any purpose or product available, how many people do you think will queue up to get through the opening doors on day 1? Exactly, 1000s and 1000s.
Now imagine swapping every shop in your local high St with every website you regularly visit, what an amazing sight that will be. It’ll never happen of course, and why would it? Its old media after all.
But one thing is for sure, its not my brain that needs to figure anything out any more. The net feels like a wave to me, one which I’m lucky enough to ride on, and experience everything that someone else has thought of, making my life better if I’m careful and listen to the right people/opinions and difficult if I try and wade through it all myself, like some techno-hermit.
Go on, get outside and go online, emmerse yourself, sign up to every account and free site available, who cares if it’ll become the next big thing or not, who knows? Why worry about it? We’re not picking football teams here people, its the internet, its as much or as little as we want. But one things for sure, every time you think ‘no, that’s not for me’ a thousand people elsewhere are signing up anyway and enjoying the view for as long as its lasts.
So here’s to the young man in the corner, who I haven’t spoken to, whos got a crazy journey ahead of him and who doesn’t even realise the massive importance of today and where he’s at right now, who’s taking it all in his stride and isn’t thinking about life 20yrs ago, its all about now, and tomorrow and where it can take him and what he can make of it all, mentally, physically and financially.