Internet Natives are the First Truly Global Generation

By 1stFive Archives
Cover image for  article: Internet Natives are the First Truly Global Generation

Chapter 16 of Jack Myers' book Hooked Up: A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World focuses on the globalism of the Hooked Up Generation -- born 1991-95 and the first generation to grow up with the Internet. Hooked Up was published in 2012 and is winner of the International Book Award for Youth Issues and finalist for the USA Book Award for Pop Culture.

The Hooked Up Generation is more globally oriented, with a spirit of solidarity toward cultures that previously may have been perceived as too far away or too different. The Internet Generation does not embrace a partitioned world, reflecting the open nature of the Internet. 68 percent of the Hooked Up Gen say they want to travel internationally for a significant amount of time, and many of them will fulfill that wish, making global friends and associations that will last a lifetime thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media.

Most colleges and universities encourage their students to spend a semester abroad; high school travel programs are available through myriad youth groups, religious organizations, and private tour programs. A growing percentage of Internet natives have capitalized on these opportunities, the first generation to be truly global in their understanding and relationships.

Ali Nelson, a self-described frequent flyer and college student, is not exactly sure what she wants to do with her life but when asked about her goals she was sure of one thing. "I know for sure that I want to travel around the world and live in various countries for a while. My goal is to be as cultured as possible and to use that in daily life."

Rasa Levickaitė, of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University in Lithuania, argues that Digital Natives, due to the proliferation of social networking, perceive their world as one without time and space limitations. "They are growing up faster. They are in education earlier. They are being exposed to marketing younger. This Internet-savvy, technologically literate generation has been shaped to multi-task. They move quickly from one task to another, placing more value on speed than accuracy. They have only known this wireless, hyperlinked, user-generated world where they are always only a few clicks from any piece of knowledge." Levickaitė observes that Internet Natives utilize the Internet and social networking to forge global connections more than their older counterparts do.

Keith Dugdale, director of global recruitment at KPMG, agrees that Digital Natives may be more attuned to global social issues than they are commonly given credit for. "Having grown up with a raft of anti-discrimination and pro-family legislation, it is to be hoped that [they will] be more diversity-aware."

Members of the Hooked Up Gen are more likely to have friends from other cultures and countries than previous generations, many of them having grown up in integrated and ethnically balanced school environments and viewing fully integrated television programs. Although there is not much hard data available, it seems safe to infer that this early multicultural exposure has influenced their views on various social issues. They are likely to take a progressive point of view on immigration, less likely to agree with protectionist policies and more likely to favor policies that assure normalized and healthy relationships and open trade with nations around the globe.

Allen Vickers, a Penn State senior studying Broadcast Journalism, had this to say about America's ongoing immigration debate. "I don't think it's as bad as a lot of people say it is, but I think there are definitely problems. I have no problem you know, because America started off on immigrants. Legal immigration is fine. I don't mind anybody coming here that wants to make America a better place or make a better life for themselves." Ali Nelson simply believes "it has to be fair."

This desire for a fairer world isn't confined to immigration. The first generation of Internet Natives is more at ease with other cultures than preceding generations. Their peer groups and social circles are more multicultural. This is the first generation since the 1950s that will have the opportunity to travel openly to Cuba, and South America will become a more important travel and business destination for them. They relate to China as a major economic force and political conundrum rather than a feared Communist enemy, and they have grown up with Asians of all cultures being an integrated part of American society

When asked about their friends, all of the young people interviewed for this book stated that they had diverse groups of friends, and that race and ethnicity were not factors when choosing friends. Many in the Hooked Up Gen speak languages other than English, many fluently, and they enjoy speaking to others on and offline in their native languages. Internet Natives pride themselves in the fact that they surround themselves with people who are culturally different. Some have dated members of other cultures in the past and do not view that as an especially significant fact.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, many in the Hooked Up Gen are not well-informed on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that have been raging for most, if not all of their lives. It's hard to determine if this is because the longstanding military conflicts are viewed as 'non-events' since they've been present throughout their lives, or if this is due to other factors. Ali Nelson feels the wars that have spanned her lifetime "should be a semester-long required college class to educate everyone."

Vickers supports the American troops but questions the longevity of the military conflict and the American presence on foreign soil. "Maybe we stayed over there too long. The kids over there grew up with an American presence and now we're leaving and they have to figure it out for themselves. I hope for the best for them. I really want the soldiers out of Afghanistan. It's like…okay…we should be leaving now. We're not helping them anymore by staying."

One possible reason for the dearth of knowledge some Internet Natives have when it comes to foreign affairs and war is their distrust of mainstream media. Nelson was blunt in her assessment of traditional media sources. "I don't trust it because it's all propaganda. When I do watch/listen/read it, I understand it's only been created this way to sell as much of it as possible. I don't take it seriously." Vickers, who credits Twitter as his primary news source (he follows journalists he respects from various news outlets) is similarly distrustful. "You can't just sit there and watch what Rush Limbaugh says or Wolf Blitzer. If you want to know anything about the complete story you have to research it yourself. You can get your news from anywhere but most news media have their own agenda. To me that was kind of made clear with the whole Penn State [athletic sex scandal] thing. They're reporting like it's the end of the world at Penn State and it wasn't. I was there the whole time and it wasn't. They all have their own agenda."

The Internet, a constant presence throughout their lives, will continue to be a powerful influence on the Hooked Up Generation. We can assume that their ease with other cultures, expanded social networks, and ingrained wanderlust will produce adults who move to wherever the jobs and opportunities are. They are a global generation that views diversity and equality as the norm, not an ideal to be fought for (and against) as it has been by previous generations.

Chpater 17: Culture Jamming: Millennials and Internet Memes


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