Sunday, January 25, 2009

Talkin' 'bout my generation

The kids of the sixties are fondly referred to as the radicals, or the flower power generations, with defining cultural epochs like Woodstock giving them material for rose-tinted nostalgia.

The kids of the nineties are Generation X, who grew up with Kurt Cobain, NIN and Sonic Youth. The rich tapestry that was their musical playground was outshone only by their glaring cynicism towards anything and everything.

Our generation, however, will more than likely be characterised by the way we've taken to social networking sites like the proverbial ducks to water. I'm not criticising this for one bit. In fact, I think that sites like Bebo and Facebook have brought back the lost art of conversation, although not without a few mutations along the way.

First there was email. Then there was texting. Now, there's Bebo. The amount of different avenues open to our generation for communication with our peers makes us the envy of our elders. In a paradoxical manner, we've returned to the old tight-knit village mentality of our past - we all know what the other person is doing. The phenomenon of "Bebo-stalking" has seen to that.

Not only has online social networking opening up new avenues for communication, it's also given us new ways to break it down. Simple actions like forgetting to "give love", dumping someone as your "other half" and deleting someone from your friends list can have repercussions far beyond the seemingly innocuous initial action. But I'm exaggerating this aspect somewhat - no one's died as a result of being poked on Facebook (yet).

What is far more disturbing, however, is how these technological marvels can be manipulated for perverse purposes. The creation of fake profiles or leaving anonymous, abusive comments is one of the most prevalent and potent forms of cyber-bullying, and there's precious little ways to stop it. It's up to the hosts of these sites to be vigilant and crack down on any such behaviour. They seem to be taking a step in the right direction - most such sites have included a "report abuse" function, so fair-minded, peaceful posters can point the finger of blame at bullies and miscreants.

In years to come, we'll be seen as the generation who revolutionised communication. Think of that next time you're putting a hit out on someone on Mafia Wars.

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