Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Internet Generation

Every title has its stories. The most important story is often the one that follows it, but for this one I also want to give the hi-story. (Sorry for the bad pun.)

This title started off as a comment on facebook. It was formatted for that medium (it had only a single capital letter, and it had a smiley trailing it). I meant it as a funny comment relating to the fact that someone had made a note about having (better) internet access, but it also got me thinking. And that thinking is what this blogpost stems from. As such, it's going to be the more serious discussion of the title.

So.. the internet generation. It's the generation I believe I am a part of. It's the generation that grew up with the internet. Well, that's not entirely true. There may be many more generations (it depends a bit on how long the internet is going to live (which is looking like a very long time right now) and what direction the internet is going to take from where it is now), but I still believe that we are the internet generation. That's because we are the first generation that grew up with the internet.

Defining a generation is never an exact science and even the question "how old can you be while still having grown up with the internet" can lead to many different answers. Nevertheless, there is clearly one thing that defines a generation: the differences between it and the generation that went before it. That's why I say the first generation that grew up with the internet is the internet generation.
(And perhaps it should be interpreted as "the people who grew up with the internet while their parents did not".)

Of course there is more to it than just that. We are also the first to massively adopt things like wikipedia, despite the early claims of it not being very factual. We are also a generation of which the larger part is on facebook. (Well, in the West anyway, but I suppose we were talking about the West anyway.) We are also the first generation to have gotten used to having the internet in our pocket through our smartphones. And we are also the generation that hates not to have the internet at our finger tops (or even just a little less at our fingertops than usual).

There is a number of properties we can ascribe to our generation (again, compared to the previous generations, future generations may well follow in our footsteps in a number of those). One of the most interesting of those properties - in my eyes anyway - would be how we handle information. We are very good scanning and picking out the useful bits of information, as we do whenever we arrive on a website. We are also very good at separating what we are looking for from distractions (well, some anyway) as we read completely around advertisement (the ones that aren't annoying anyway) and barely even notice they are there. And like no other, we can look at a summary like the ones on Google and decide if this is what we are looking for or not.

Another property would be how we handle multitasking. I don't exactly know how much better humans are at "actual multitasking" (doing different things at exactly the same time), but wouldn't be surprised if we aren't able to do that or do it much. However, there is still the fact where fact that we can do different things at the same time by actually just switching between them quickly, which I think we as a generation are pretty good at (and which computers are way better at, even). However, I that's not where we make the big difference in my opinion. The real difference is how we can switch between things consciously almost effortlessly. Tabbed browsing is a good example of this, and not being able to do multiple things at the same thing easily makes us feel restricted.
(And to make a circle out of my whole story again, that's also one of the things the post I responded to on Facebook was about).

If you got this far, I hope you enjoyed my rambling!

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