Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{November 7, 2008}   Apparently, I’m part of the “Net Generation”

I was reading this new story about some dude who wrote a book about “kids these days” and this sentence caught my attention:

Don Tapscott says those weaned on the Internet — people born roughly between 1977 and 1997 — are more politically savvy, socially engaged and family-centred than society gives them credit for.

1977?  Really?  *I* was born in 1977.  And as much as I like to think of myself as “young,” I don’t really think I can say I was “weaned on the Internet.”  Sure, I’m a netaholic now, but I grew up in a home with a Commodore 64, I typed all my assignments in high school on an electronic typewriter and didn’t get a “real” computer, or an email address, until first-year university.  Hardly an age I’d refer to as “weaning.” Anyway, I think I’ll get the book: “”Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World” once it comes to the library1, as it sounds kind of interesting. And I’m down with reading a book that refers to me in the same breath as “kids these days.” =)

1Because I am cheap. And the library lets you borrow books… for free!


Sarah says:

I will cling to any reference to being part of this generation, as I really don’t feel a strong affinity to “Gen X”.

The proliferation of the net happened when we were at the end of high school/beginning of University, but it still played a HUGE factor in our formative years. I cannot even imagine University research without the internet (I would never have been able to do my Master’s without it), and even during high school, I remember going online with my exs (P, C and D) to participate on bulletin boards and the like.

And, while we weren’t “weaned on the net”, I think we fit more into that generation because we have always had computer technology as a baseline in our lives. I can barely remember not having several computers in our house. My Dad has always been a computer nerd, so we got our first (a Vic 20) when I was almost 4. He taught programming to kids and used to write me games, and we had a variety of computers and operating systems over the years (he’s now, at age 61, Mr. Linux). We always had computers in the classroom (or, in the early days, in the library). I have never worked in an office job, even as a high school student, where I didn’t have my own computer terminal or email address. I cannot imagine work nor remember life without using computers on a daily basis. And, being on the cusp of that, even the non-“early adopters” in our age group not afraid to use technology to simplify/enhance our lives.

Beth says:

Yeah, your dad was totally an early adopter in the whole computer thing. I can definitely remember life without using computers on a daily basis – I can’t remember what year my dad got the C-64, but it really wasn’t something I used every day. (I didn’t use a computer every day until uni, and even then I wasn’t on the ‘net every day) We did have a computer in the classroom (I believe it was called the “Icon”?) starting around grade 4 or 5, but everyone only got like 15 mins a week on the thing. And all you could do with it was draw a line, turn 90 degrees, draw another line (I have a fuzzy memory of this program being called “Logo”?).

I agree that we aren’t Gen X – I can’t find my copy of the book, Generation X, but I recall it being people born in the 1960s and early 1970s (Wikipedia calls me a liar on this, but I’ll find my book to verify).

Kalev says:

@Beth, Sarah: Gen X is the tail-end of the Baby Boom, which according to Boom, Bust, and Echo (the book–yes I’ve read it, not simply looked up stuff on wikipedia) ended in Canada in 1968 (or that’s what I recall even if wikipedia argues with me and says 1966), so none of us (Sarah, Beth, or I) are even remotely part of it. We’re Baby Busters, which demographically is quite good because there are fewer of us to occupy the massive amounts of “space” created by the Boomers as they retire (and die! Die, Boomers, die! I’m so sick of how wonderful and great you think your generation was!).

Gen Xers are now at least 40… they were (initially) shafted because they came at the tail end of boom and thus were squeezed out of all the societal “space” (jobs, services, etc.) by the flood of early Boomers. I believe they’ve done follow-ups and eventually things noticeably improved for them as they progressed through their 30s.

Initially I was going to say that bullshit people born 1977 and on were part of the “net generation” but that’s because I know I had early access to the net because I was in computer science but that wasn’t until I was in university so it hardly made the Net an everyday thing (where early means “before it became popular with the masses and everyone knew what the Internet was” i.e. pre 1996 or so). But then I realised I’m three years older than you two. Still, a regular someone who was born in 1977 was 19 in 1996, and so essentially did not have the Net in high school (or certainly not for most of high school). So I think 1977 is too early… 1982 makes more sense to me. That way someone would have been in Grade 8 in 1996 and would have therefore spent all of high school with the Net being widely popularly known.

Also, Sarah, we’re talking about everyday-ness of the Net, not simply computers. Having grown up with computers as commonplace is quite different from having grown up with Internet access as commonplace. I would argue ubiquity of Internet access is yet again different from ubiquity of BBS/modem access, because BBS-s were never as integrated into mainstream daily life as the Internet has been and BBS-s were not “global” the way the Internet is. I might even argue it’s the ubiquity of high-speed/constant Internet access that is important, rather than simply dial-up.

And even though this fractures “periods” into even smaller chunks, ubiquity of hardline Internet access is quite different from today’s ubiquity of wireless/cellular Internet access. And the timing of when this could be argued to have become ubiquitous is very different between Canada and the US and other regions such as Europe where mobile phone texting and data usage exploded about 5 years before it hit here.

I think I’ll be eternally grateful that (a) I’ve always been into tech and (b) I had early exposure to the Internet so that it is very everyday for me.

Beth says:

@Kalev – To clarify, I was talking about Wikipedia calling me a liar on how the Copeland book, Generation X, defines Gen X (not Boom, Bust & Echo). WP cites Copeland as saying it’s people born from “1965 to 1980,” whereas I’m pretty sure that’s wrong, but couldn’t find my copy of the book to confirm that.

And I don’t see why you wanted the Boomers to *die*, when they can simply retire. Harsh! My parents are boomers (well, my dad might not technically be one, as he was born in ’45 and I think the boom started in ’46) and I’d like them to stay alive, thanks!

Davin says:

Hi Beth,

For what it’s worth, I was born in 1978 and I’ve been on the ‘net since before it had graphics (early 90’s). Politically that means nothing. I read about politics because I find them interesting, because they are more interesting lately. One only needs look at the recent US election to understand this. I could have definitely raised my hand if someone was doing an apathetic teen count though. When I was younger, I did not care about politics one bit because I did not get it. Information was available, I just was not interested. Politicians seemed too aloof, too hard to level with, not accessible. Their function was obvious to me, but their power was a bit of a mystery.

Anyway there it is.


Kalev says:

@Beth: I know what you were talking about. I was talking about the fact wikipedia says that Boom, Bust, and Echo says the boom in Canada lasted until 1966 whereas I remember (from reading the book) that it lasted until 1968. I could be remembering it wrong, though.

I generically want the Boomers to die, not specifically like your parents. Or one of your parents. Or at least I want their stranglehold on what is considered important and relevant to die.

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