Instant messaging on AOL was one thing, checking-in everywhere you go, tweeting about the experience you are having, and then instantly sharing the photos you take while you are there is the next level.
Twitter was founded in 2006; Facebook only two years before that. This means that the tweens who were early adopters to this current iteration of life on technology have not yet even graduated from college. How will they be different than the rest of us?
We already know that many of them, maybe even most of them, will share a whole lot more about themselves with their larger community than was the custom before. It has also become common practice to present yourself in the virtual world as you would on a resume. That is, the digital natives put their best foot forward online. Frequently, they put an enhanced foot forward online.
It is one thing to focus on your strengths and accomplishments when writing a resume to get a job. To select the best of your photos, contemplate and publish pithy witticisms in your status updates, and inflate your friends list with people you have never spoken to, all on a daily basis takes this virtual self creation significantly further than does a resume. What will be the psychological impact of all of this?
I am optimistic. Teens try on many outfits as they struggle with identity. Without the virtual playground, this exploration took place exclusively through real avenues like sports, drama, music favorites, dress, and choice of real friends. The virtual space allows teens to be much more dynamic with this exploration. They can say something to the world and get feedback with one hundred times the frequency that they would have in the real world. In the same night they can change their favorite albums, like posts by and comment on a whole new set of friends, and compare their virtual profiles to a dozen or more people that interest them.
This is significant practice. By the time these millenials graduate from college they will have had ample opportunity to explore who they are in the virtual world, and will likely have decided on an identity that jives with them. This identity will no doubt, be an enhanced one. When the world of practice that is schooling gives way to the world of action that is after schooling they will be confronted with a self that is somewhere between virtual and real, somewhere between their virtual excellence and their real averageness. When they see both of these images, side by side, I think they will strive to actualize the larger, more significant model. Kids will strive to match the stature of their Facebook profile.
Leah Mac Vie addresses the pros of cons of growing up on Facebook in this insightful post. She suggests that the social skills (I would categorize as networking) that the millenials are learning, give them an advantage over the prior generation. It is these skills, in concert with the narcissistic infatuation they have with their virtual selves, I will argue, that will enable them to approach their own self-constructed automythographies. And if they reach the top of this mountain, they will, no doubt check-in on Foursquare and then tweet their success.