Gen Y on Facebook – They Just Don’t Care

Last week I had the good fortune of being invited to give a talk and be part of a panel at a conference organized by Health Canada on Intergenerational Workplaces. I had a great time presenting, listening to the other speakers and meeting the participants.

Acknowledging the dangers of speaking in terms as broad as generations, there was a highlight moment about generational differences worth sharing. This moment reaffirmed to me how poorly Generation Y is understood – even the alleged “experts.”

During the panel someone asked (what has become and inevitable question) about Generation Y’s attitudes towards security and privacy. In short – don’t they know that the photo they are sharing on Facebook is accessible to the world?

Both the technology expert and the “generational” consultant on the panel talked about how Gen Yers obviously didn’t realize that when they post a picture (say, for example, a photo of them greedily swigging a beer at a conference they helped organize in Toronto) there are a ton of people who can access it – such as everyone in your municipal network (this could be, for example, all of Toronto). Both concluded that if Gen Yers realized what they were doing then they’d behave differently. As a result, it was up to us older – and obviously wiser – members of the audience to educate them.

deaves drinking on the job v2
This, to me, was a stunningly problematic diagnoses which in turn led to a flawed prescription.

My fellow panelists were basically asserting was that they – a boomer and a Gen Xer – had a better grasp of Facebook than the early adopting Gen Yers.  They were arguing that Gen Yers who share photos and information the panelists wouldn’t choose to share were – to put it bluntly – at best ignorant or naive, at worst, dumb. Remember, the conclusion is that these people mistakenly believe they are just sharing something with friends. If they knew it could end up getting shared more widely, they’d make a different choice.

Really?

When a young person shares a scandalous piece of news on Facebook or posts a picture of themselves drunk at a party you really think they believe others won’t be able to end up seeing it? More often than not… no! They know that all of Toronto may be able to see it. They just don’t care.

That’s right, many Gen Yers just don’t care.

Many take the attitude that what they do on their time is their business, and if you don’t like it… well that’s okay, I probably wouldn’t want to work for you anyway. And in an era of labour scarcity (who else is going to fill the jobs of all those retiring boomers) that attitude probably won’t push them out of the labour market.

What’s important here is that if you realize they don’t care – telling them that the photo they share is viewable by anyone isn’t going to change their behaviour. They already know it is viewable by everyone. While some may make different choices if they believed their career prospects might be impacted – many (and I mean many) will not. A number of Gen Yers (recognizing the enormous problems of using sweeping generalizations like generations) will be making different choices than both boomers and even Xers around both issues like privacy and what they feel is acceptable to share with the world.

I know many boomers believe this will impact Yers employment opportunities. Maybe. But then, boomers did elect a democratic president who admitted to smoking pot (but not inhaling) and a republican president whose done coke. Why shouldn’t a Gen Yer believe that if it is okay for the president to have engaged in that behaviour – how can a photo of me drunk at a party be a deal breaker?

21 thoughts on “Gen Y on Facebook – They Just Don’t Care

  1. Gavriella Caasi

    I anticipate that this whole social networking bubble will eventually burst, or have a rubber band effect where people realize how dangerous all is “sharing” can be and want to share with privacy. Facebooks will be out and services that promote ultimate privacy like 2Pad will be in.

    Reply
  2. Gavriella Caasi

    I anticipate that this whole social networking bubble will eventually burst, or have a rubber band effect where people realize how dangerous all is “sharing” can be and want to share with privacy. Facebooks will be out and services that promote ultimate privacy like 2Pad will be in.

    Reply
  3. David Eaves Post author

    Maybe…or maybe not. Gen Yers also tend to share more about their jobs, their salary, how their bosses treat them, etc, with others over a coffee as well. It’s a generation that has grown up in a world where information (both public and private) is simple more available and shared more readily. I wouldn’t link this behaviour to a single fad like facebook.

    Reply
  4. David Eaves

    Maybe…or maybe not. Gen Yers also tend to share more about their jobs, their salary, how their bosses treat them, etc, with others over a coffee as well. It’s a generation that has grown up in a world where information (both public and private) is simple more available and shared more readily. I wouldn’t link this behaviour to a single fad like facebook.

    Reply
  5. Karen

    There’s an anecdote demonstrating exactly what you’re talking about that popped up on Valleywag last week about an intern at a bank who asked for time off to go to a party.

    I was an intern at a large Fortune 100 company at a development lab just as they were starting to become aware of Facebook, and the conclusion of even the most Web 2.0 savvy people in the company (who had kids that had the exact attitude you describe) was still to just send out an email at the beginning of their work terms saying, “If you’re on Facebook, make sure you’re complying with the Business Conduct Guidelines.” I found it pretty funny, because despite the fact that it’s a Fortune 100 company, that particular software development lab was certainly pulling out the stops to appeal to younger talent – flex hours, on-campus gym, liberal use of mobile working, ping pong tables and foosball on the second floor.

    I think of this behaviour as a commitment to a certain kind of transparency and accountability for employees being people. The sort of companies that they create will not have business conduct guidelines that say you represent the company in all venues at all times with your behaviour. My thinking is that in the face of things deemed traditionally socially unacceptable, they will gear towards dialogue as a way of finding the appropriate reactions. At the same time, if it looks anything like YouTube comments, then maybe I’m giving my age bracket too much credit.

    The other example I’m thinking of is Tara Hunt and Chris Messina’s recent joint statements. It’s both personal and professional, and makes complete sense in light of their world, but I bet a lot of people in upper eschalons of business might think of that as airing dirty laundry or something.

    Reply
  6. Karen

    There’s an anecdote demonstrating exactly what you’re talking about that popped up on Valleywag last week about an intern at a bank who asked for time off to go to a party.I was an intern at a large Fortune 100 company at a development lab just as they were starting to become aware of Facebook, and the conclusion of even the most Web 2.0 savvy people in the company (who had kids that had the exact attitude you describe) was still to just send out an email at the beginning of their work terms saying, “If you’re on Facebook, make sure you’re complying with the Business Conduct Guidelines.” I found it pretty funny, because despite the fact that it’s a Fortune 100 company, that particular software development lab was certainly pulling out the stops to appeal to younger talent – flex hours, on-campus gym, liberal use of mobile working, ping pong tables and foosball on the second floor.I think of this behaviour as a commitment to a certain kind of transparency and accountability for employees being people. The sort of companies that they create will not have business conduct guidelines that say you represent the company in all venues at all times with your behaviour. My thinking is that in the face of things deemed traditionally socially unacceptable, they will gear towards dialogue as a way of finding the appropriate reactions. At the same time, if it looks anything like YouTube comments, then maybe I’m giving my age bracket too much credit.The other example I’m thinking of is Tara Hunt and Chris Messina’s recent joint statements. It’s both personal and professional, and makes complete sense in light of their world, but I bet a lot of people in upper eschalons of business might think of that as airing dirty laundry or something.

    Reply
  7. David Humphrey

    I think there’s more going on than “don’t care,” since the behaviours tend to manifest themselves in similar ways: people tend to “not care” in particular ways and repetitive ways: you boozing, girls-gone-wild-ish, etc. It looks to me like a particular way of being.

    Reply
  8. David Humphrey

    I think there’s more going on than “don’t care,” since the behaviours tend to manifest themselves in similar ways: people tend to “not care” in particular ways and repetitive ways: you boozing, girls-gone-wild-ish, etc. It looks to me like a particular way of being.

    Reply
  9. Jeremy Vernon

    As a card carrying Gen Yer I have to agree with the argument in principle. Gen Yers (in general) have a tough time buying into the principle of privacy as an absolute good.

    Privacy, in a way, is a currency. They give a little away in exchange for services of value to them.

    In exchange for reading my email for advertisements users get a good email service.

    In exchange for access to this social network, I give up some knowledge about me.

    Cutomization requires revealing details about oneself, the marginal cost for privacy amongst Yers is significantly less than the other gens.

    Reply
  10. Jeremy Vernon

    As a card carrying Gen Yer I have to agree with the argument in principle. Gen Yers (in general) have a tough time buying into the principle of privacy as an absolute good.Privacy, in a way, is a currency. They give a little away in exchange for services of value to them.In exchange for reading my email for advertisements users get a good email service.In exchange for access to this social network, I give up some knowledge about me.Cutomization requires revealing details about oneself, the marginal cost for privacy amongst Yers is significantly less than the other gens.

    Reply
  11. Chelsea

    I think authenticity may have something to do with it as well. I think there is less pressure in our generation to live multiple if lives, having to be one person at the office and another outside. Our work and personal lives are far more intertwined than those in the generations before us, as such I think we have a much different perception of what matters in terms of our privacy.

    Reply
  12. Chelsea

    I think authenticity may have something to do with it as well. I think there is less pressure in our generation to live multiple if lives, having to be one person at the office and another outside. Our work and personal lives are far more intertwined than those in the generations before us, as such I think we have a much different perception of what matters in terms of our privacy.

    Reply
  13. Tiffany S.

    There's a reason why younger generations learn from older generations — b/c the older generation has “been there, done that.” It's arrogant to say an entire generation just doesn't care about what they say and post on social networking sites. Everyday there are news stories about things people have posted and how it's gotten them reprimanded or fired at work, etc. Here's one from today: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,548882,00.html. Your article misses the point. We ALL know compromising photos and postings can be seen by the public. Few believe there is such a thing as privacy online. The point is that you SHOULD care, b/c some of this can come back and bite you. You just haven't lived long enough or had enough experience to see this first hand. How many politicians and entertainers get in hot water over terrible public mistakes? Too many to count. This has gone on since the beginning of time — before Internet. When mistakes and compromising situations are made public, the person at fault suffers the repercussions. But today, it's easier to make those mistakes public and easier to suffer the consequences. You say “Many take the attitude that what they do on their time is their business, and if you don't like it… well that's okay, I probably wouldn't want to work for you anyway.” I'd like to hear you say that to your spouse and children one day when you come home and tell them you've been fired b/c of a compromising photo or posting on a social site. Tell them there's no money coming in b/c you acted like a fool and your boss found out about it. Labor shortage? In this economy? Good luck. BTW: Your personal life does affect your work life — no one wants a fool to represent them in court, or sell them insurane or perform surgery on them. Most of the time we don't know about a lawyer or doctor's personal life, but now that we can, it sure will make a difference whether or not they're hired.

    Reply
  14. David Eaves

    Tiffany – thank you for commenting. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with you. your analysis assumes that everything stays constant – social norms, how people evaluate others, what they are comfortable knowing. My suspicion is that those values are going to change. Indeed, we already see it happening. 30 years ago the knowledge that a presidential candidate had smoked dope would have killed their chances, 15 years (in the case of Clinton) it was a big deal, but not a deal breaker. Now we've had two presidents (Bush and Obama) who both tacitly (Bush) and openly (Obama) admit that they used cocaine. That the internet is changing how we look at one another. this isn't to say the change is going to happen overnight. Nor does it mean that all behaviours will be forgiven. But I'm not sure your evidence of “someone got fired cause they did something on facebook” is all that compelling. Since a) there are a lot of boomers who will fire people for this, but let's see what Gen X and Y bosses do and b) there is a giant (what Nassim Taleb calls) silent evidence problem. You're never going to see a story saying: young adult not fired because of drunken photo on facebook!

    Reply
  15. random

    with the sheer volume of people posting their every waking movement to all the various social sites, it in effect creates a huge patter of white noise. With all the information available, most of it goes unnoticed by anyone. Much the same way that a crazy street person with a tutu and a santa hat can walk down a busy street in new york and and rarely receive more than a second glance, if he is noticed at all.

    Reply
  16. random

    with the sheer volume of people posting their every waking movement to all the various social sites, it in effect creates a huge patter of white noise. With all the information available, most of it goes unnoticed by anyone. Much the same way that a crazy street person with a tutu and a santa hat can walk down a busy street in new york and and rarely receive more than a second glance, if he is noticed at all.

    Reply
  17. Tiffany S.

    I can appreciate your different world view. Certainly times change and things that would have ruined people decades ago now merit a slap on the wrist or less. Still, that doesn't mean that certain behaviours will not go unpunished. Your opinion is also a bit unnerving because of the dangers that do exist from posting sexy images or compromising messages online. Kids are in real danger of cyberbullying and digital dating abuse from sexting. In short, Gen Yers and others should care about what they post online. This is why MTV recently launched athinline.org — to educate younger generations about the potential for abuse and consequences of online posts.

    Reply
  18. Tiffany S.

    From the MTV press release about A Thin Line (I have no affiliation with MTV. I'm simply a concerned parent and Gen Xer who knows a thing or two about this digital age we live in). Thanks for the posts and replies: “Our audience lives online, and while every generation deals with their own set of abuse issues, the digital sphere exponentially increases opportunities for misuse,” said Stephen Friedman, general manager of MTV. “There is a very thin line between private and public, this moment and forever, love and abuse, and words and wounds. A Thin Line is built to empower our audience to draw their own line between digital use and digital abuse.” According to a new study released on Thursday by MTV and The Associated Press that explores the full scope of digital abuse, 50 percent of 14-to-24-year-olds have been the target of some form of digital abuse, 30 percent have sent or received nude photos of other young people on their cell phones or online and 12 percent of those who have sexted have contemplated suicide, a rate four times higher than those who haven't. The study explores the pervasiveness of digital abuse, how it's affecting America's youth, how they're responding to it, their concerns and much more. A Thin Line will address digital abuse issues on a number of fronts, including on-air, online and with real-world initiatives integrated into MTV's top-rated programming. Among the programming efforts will be an MTV News special focused on sexting that will air on Valentine's Day 2010 called “True Life: I Have Digital Drama,” public service announcements (including two by acclaimed director Joel Schumacher, “Public Nudity” and “Tattoo”), innovative online and mobile tools, and the Redraw the Line Challenge, which will ask young people to submit their ideas for creative solutions to halt the spread of digital abuse. “

    Reply
  19. Tiffany S.

    I can appreciate your different world view. Certainly times change and things that would have ruined people decades ago now merit a slap on the wrist or less. Still, that doesn't mean that certain behaviours will not go unpunished. Your opinion is also a bit unnerving because of the dangers that do exist from posting sexy images or compromising messages online. Kids are in real danger of cyberbullying and digital dating abuse from sexting. In short, Gen Yers and others should care about what they post online. This is why MTV recently launched athinline.org — to educate younger generations about the potential for abuse and consequences of online posts.

    Reply
  20. Tiffany S.

    From the MTV press release about A Thin Line (I have no affiliation with MTV. I'm simply a concerned parent and Gen Xer who knows a thing or two about this digital age we live in). Thanks for the posts and replies: “Our audience lives online, and while every generation deals with their own set of abuse issues, the digital sphere exponentially increases opportunities for misuse,” said Stephen Friedman, general manager of MTV. “There is a very thin line between private and public, this moment and forever, love and abuse, and words and wounds. A Thin Line is built to empower our audience to draw their own line between digital use and digital abuse.” According to a new study released on Thursday by MTV and The Associated Press that explores the full scope of digital abuse, 50 percent of 14-to-24-year-olds have been the target of some form of digital abuse, 30 percent have sent or received nude photos of other young people on their cell phones or online and 12 percent of those who have sexted have contemplated suicide, a rate four times higher than those who haven't. The study explores the pervasiveness of digital abuse, how it's affecting America's youth, how they're responding to it, their concerns and much more. A Thin Line will address digital abuse issues on a number of fronts, including on-air, online and with real-world initiatives integrated into MTV's top-rated programming. Among the programming efforts will be an MTV News special focused on sexting that will air on Valentine's Day 2010 called “True Life: I Have Digital Drama,” public service announcements (including two by acclaimed director Joel Schumacher, “Public Nudity” and “Tattoo”), innovative online and mobile tools, and the Redraw the Line Challenge, which will ask young people to submit their ideas for creative solutions to halt the spread of digital abuse. “

    Reply
  21. Pingback: Facebook Privacy And The Work/Life Balance | Blog by Jon Bishop

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