Gen Y Info Sharing Seen Continuing

July 12, 2010

Generation Y Millennials will continue their current habit of sharing large amounts of personal information online as they age, according to the recent “Future of the Internet” study from the Pew Research Center‘s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center.

Consensus Sees Gen Y as Open with Online Info
Sixty-seven percent of technology experts, and 69% of total survey respondents, agreed with a statement that said in part, “By 2020, members of Generation Y will continue to be ambient broadcasters who disclose a great deal of personal information in order to stay connected and take advantage of social, economic, and political opportunities.”

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In contrast, 29% of technology experts, and 28% of total survey respondents, agreed with a statement that said in part, “As (Generation Y members) age and find new interests and commitments, their enthusiasm for widespread information-sharing will abate.”

Remaining respondents did not answer this question. Generation Y members (or “Millennials”) are generally considered to consist of people ages 18-33.

Benefits of Online Disclosure Broadly Seen
Most of those surveyed noted that the disclosure of personal information online carries many social benefits as people open up to others in order to build friendships, form and find communities, seek help, and build their reputations. They said Millennials have already seen the benefits and will not reduce their use of these social tools over the next decade as they take on more responsibilities while growing older.

The majority argued in answers to the survey that new social norms that reward disclosure are already in place among the young. Technology experts also expressed hope that society will be more forgiving of those whose youthful mistakes are on display in social media such as Facebook picture albums or YouTube videos.

Furthermore, some respondents said new definitions of “private” and “public” information are taking shape in networked society. They argued that this means that Millennials might change the kinds of personal information they share as they age, but the aging process will not fundamentally change the incentives to share.

At the same time, some experts said an awkward trial-and-error period is unfolding and will continue during the next decade, as people adjust to new realities about how social networks perform and as new boundaries are set about the personal information that is appropriate to share.

1 in 3 See Online Openness Fading
Nearly 30% of respondents disagreed with the majority, most of them noting that life stages and milestones do matter and do prompt changes in behavior. They cited an array of factors that they believe will compel Millennials to pull back on their free-wheeling lifecasting, including: fears that openness about their personal lives might damage their professional lives, greater seriousness in dating and family formation as people age, and the arrival of children in their lives.

Among other things, many of the dissenting experts also said Millennials will not have as much time in the future to devote to popular activities such as frequently posting to the world at large on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook about the mundane details of their lives.

Gen Y Info-sharing Can Aid Retail Marketing Efforts
Retail marketers can take advantage of Generation Y shoppers’ tendency to share personal information online, according to The Nielsen Company. These visually-oriented shoppers will tweet and text about special deals real-time from the store aisles about what looks good today, where to meet up, and anything cool that catches their eye on site. If a marketer is lucky, they’ll hit a quirky Millennial sweet spot, and a Generation Y shopper will YouTube or Hulu a video of a helpful employee or unusual in-store promotion.

About the Data: A total of 895 people, including 371 technology experts, participated in this study.

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