What do we know about the generation called the “Web pioneers”? The Internet becomes more and more like a second life for many of us. Today the virtual space accomplishes perhaps more functions than the real life does. In an article from “The Guardian”, entitled “Youth culture: teenage kicks in the digital age – Why this generation are the true web pioneers…”, Aleks Krotoski, a renowned researcher in the domain of psychology, who also deals with the study of the relationships in the online communities, pursues a theoretical and critical analysis of the effects of the growing development of the social networks and searching engines (Facebook and Google in particular). This topic had been debated during a seminar at the University of Konstanz, and the pros and cons were very applicable. Also, this topic is always open to new arguments. But who should win in the end?
An interesting question would be “Why do people want to post so many data, activities, and personal photos on the Internet?” Here I refer to Facebook in particular. Well, what I and other students have identified cannot represent the adequate or general answer. In the best case scenario, for many people this is a way to escape from the daily routine. The other reasons are much more diverse. These online activities serve to either make you more competitive, or they help you get noticed by others, or they create a false identity for you (“That’s what I wanna be”, “This is who I am but I’m not like this actually”). At the same time, they can also represent marketing strategies that substantiate your expertise in a field. There is nothing weird in this type of activity until people start posting photos showing the oddest daily activities (how they feed their children, how they have their hair and nails done, or how they party, how they have shower, what they do at the toilet, and so on and do forth, because their imagination is endless). Everything appears as turmoil of organized posts framed by a virtual and mimetic space.
Why does it happen like this? Maybe because other values have been lost, or they are simply missing from the community to which these people belong (family, friends, theatre, opera, sports clubs, the evenings spent with the pals). These values are missing only if we do not preserve them, or if we consider them no longer important. This is how Mark Zuckerberg became more successful, and this motivated him to come up with other applications to control the lives of the online communities. I used and I still use Facebook for promoting my articles, and for staying in touch with the students from Romania and from abroad but why should one offer more than the basics?
Andy Warhol used this statement in 1968 to explain the phenomenon that will shape our persona in the future. Apparently, what he said started to come true. Everyone desires to be competitive, to be known, or to toot their horn that they have tons of friends, and it would seem legit for them to become famous for “15 minutes”. If they do better than this, they turn into a Zeus of the virtual world (and probably this is what they are). What would be the continuity of an information, of a project, or of an accomplishment, if another is launched immediately? “You were famous. Good for you! Here comes another one.” And this is how we spend every day to gain fame for several minutes (this time value depends on the individual goals). Is everything positive or negative? Perhaps you will answer this question. Well, the ones who do business within the online world, and have something to gain from this intricacy will be against what I stated. But what should one do when it comes to teenagers and young people? They are the ones mesmerized by the World Wide Web (until the moment when all the mommies will start posting photos of their babies bathing or sitting on the potty).
Is there a chance for a youth culture to be built online? What are the changes in the young people’s perceptions about life, family or friends? Well, everything changes. Personally, I do not see the benefits of the social networks. On the contrary, I perceive them (especially Facebook) as a “diplomatic” way to control the people (hark!) willingly. The Panopticon, the concept coined by Jeremy Bentham, presupposed a type of institution in which the individuals were seen anytime and anyhow. The Panopticon was designed as a concept for prisons but isn’t Facebook a type of dungeon too? We can go even further to analyze the articles about the “online Panopticon” which appeared in the specialized magazines, or we can identify in Michel Foucault’s works an explanation that is able to prove a theory of power which the social networks have nowadays. This sounds interesting, right? It is really interesting, and now perhaps we found an answer regarding Facebook (by the way, Mark Zuckerberg works with different worldwide organizations).
In the following edition of the “Iuventa” magazine (March 2012) we shall discuss what are the perspectives of the young people nowadays, with their obstacles and opportunities, and undoubtedly the virtual world will be included in our discussion. By that time, I invite you to read Aleks Krotoski’s article.
P.S.: Does anyone feel that they have a second life in the online world?