The New Generations: Visibility over Privacy?
“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.” - Gabriel García Márquez
My sons sent me a video of them teaching their “followers” how to do jump cuts at our home. I was surprised because we never taught them how to edit using their iPads. The Internet is truly a place of wonder! They are only 8 and 9 years old - Gen Alpha - the generation following Gen Z which includes all children born in or after 2010, the same year the iPad was born.
I got curious about the perceptions of privacy for different generations, especially the younger cohorts like Gen Z and Gen Alpha. That’s why I created a poll, asking you how comfortable you were in sharing personal photos online. Among all respondents, 56% said they were somewhat comfortable while the others said they were not. I’m not surprised because I assume most of my connections on Linkedin are the more mature ones.
This result also reminded me of a recent conversation I had with one of my friends who worked in an entertainment company, and told me that the generation today tends to share a lot of what we considered as “personal” on social media. YouTube vlogs, Tiktok videos, and Instagram reels have been trending lately for this who want to share anything from life hacks and beauty trends to everyday vlogs. Certainly, this is not news, but as part of the “earlier” generation, I wonder how the new generations perceive the concept of “personal” or privacy.
Gen Z were born from 1997 onwards. This generation has become more adept in using digital media, utilizing different platforms to share bits and pieces of their lives. We might argue that this generation has little to no care about their privacy, but surprisingly, studies say otherwise.
In a study done by Wunderman Thompson on 500 Hong Kong students, 9 out of 10 are actually concerned about their privacy online. FreedomPay’s study on privacy among generations also showed that Gen Z are the least willing to share their information online. But to the earlier generations, this doesn’t seem like the case.
Yaryna Myrka, a writer for United States Cybersecurity Magazine, mentions that Gen Z sees social media as an extension of their lives, while the other generations don’t. They were born into the world with the internet and technology already present. This means that their understanding of privacy is much more complex.
To quote David Atkins, the Head of Strategy of Wunderman Thompson, “They have implicitly accepted that personal data is a currency that can be created, protected and traded.” And they have used this as a way to express and channel their creativity and opinions on the internet.
It is good to observe these behaviors of the new generation to understand the kind of culture that they cultivate in the online sphere. In the same study mentioned above, 7 out of 10 young people state that they are authentically representing themselves. But for this generation, an authentic representation may mean differently on different platforms; their YouTube self may not be the same as their Tiktok self, but this does not mean that they are not authentic.
We have to be on the lookout for these trends because this generation will soon be shaping (or is now shaping) how we will interact with the media and the world. Studying and acknowledging their culture will give way to more understanding of generation gaps. We can then provide them with a more inclusive space where they are not afraid to express themselves.
I’m a strong believer that in order to have an inclusive work culture, it is key to be curious to understand the different value systems, before we strategise a solution to bridge and unite. The ability to lead colleagues from different generations is also part of cultural intelligence.
If there is something to learn from this generation, it’s that we don’t have to be afraid to share our authentic selves in the online sphere. So next time your children/nephews/nieces are teaching you something new on the internet, try to give them a go and you might learn something!
In conclusion, it might just be a preconception that the new generations care more about visibility than privacy. Instead, they have very high awareness of the values of privacy, as well as placing a strong focus on presenting their authentic selves.
Originally published in