on privacy.

I'm really enjoying this New York magazine article about the younger generations' approach to privacy on the Internet (which is to say, they don't care that much). This bit, for instance:

Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry--for God's sake, their dirty photos!--online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention--and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.

"When it is more important to be seen than to be talented, it is hardly surprising that the less gifted among us are willing to fart our way into the spotlight," sneers Lakshmi Chaudhry in the current issue of The Nation. "Without any meaningful standard by which to measure our worth, we turn to the public eye for affirmation."

Clay Shirky, a 42-year-old professor of new media at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, who has studied these phenomena since 1993, has a theory about that response. "Whenever young people are allowed to indulge in something old people are not allowed to, it makes us bitter. What did we have? The mall and the parking lot of the 7-Eleven? It sucked to grow up when we did! And we're mad about it now." People are always eager to believe that their behavior is a matter of morality, not chronology, Shirky argues. "You didn't behave like that because nobody gave you the option."

None of this is to suggest that older people aren't online, of course; they are, in huge numbers. It's just that it doesn't come naturally to them. "It is a constant surprise to those of us over a certain age, let's say 30, that large parts of our life can end up online," says Shirky. "But that's not a behavior anyone under 30 has had to unlearn." Despite his expertise, Shirky himself can feel the gulf growing between himself and his students, even in the past five years. "It used to be that we were all in this together. But now my job is not to demystify, but to get the students to see that it's strange or unusual at all. Because they're soaking in it."

I find this fascinating partly because I'm me and I enjoy thinking about stuff, but also because at 30, I'm right on the cusp of these two camps. I put a lot of stuff online, but rarely tell anyone about it, and purposefully make it difficult for anyone to find: given the email address I hand out to people, it's not possible to find this journal through Google searches. And I put photos of myself and my friends online, though not usually with last names. Some of my caution comes from my own desires to shield myself from the world, and some from genuine self-protection; but in reality, it's not that hard to physically locate and investigate any of us, and our greatest protection is that, to the vast majority of the world, we're simply not that interesting. I protect my financial and personal data assiduously, but no one will really care what I learned in Mexico, or how miserable that one relationship was, or how great the other one was, or anything else that's happened since. I do not diminish either myself or my life by keeping them hidden.