The Creolization of the Internet Generation?

There is a provocative piece in the New York Magazine on Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy, entitled ‘Say Everything’. It asks why kids (some 26 years of age) reveal so much about themselves on the Internet.

A couple of explanations are offered from an interview with NYU Professor Clay Shirky. The most interesting is the hypothesis that kids growing up with the Internet are going through a process similar to kids growing up in a family with pidgin speakers — the development of a new, more structured and coherent language, such as Creole. I assume this means that kids growing up with the Internet will adopt rules and structures of communication that are more rationally attuned to the capabilities and affordances of online media.

As interesting as this thesis might be, I think it is important to keep some perspective on the relative minority of kids that reveal all on the Internet. Most kids to not develop a Web site, a blog, etc. 82 percent of Internet users 14 and over in Britain in 2005 had never, ever tried to set up a Web page. Only 38 percent of students had tried to set up a Web page. Most are likely to download music, and entertain themselves online, but this is hardly revealing their private lives. Many children instant message and chat, but with their close friends. They know and limit who has access to their groups. Are we building theories of social change tied to the Internet that are anchored in a small minority of users?

The Internet enables people to isolate themselves or to say everything — but it is unlikely to rewire people – young or old – to say everything.

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