Re: Engaging with Social Media

In her lengthy response to a previous post of mine, Virginia Yonkers offers further insight into how we perceive social networks and communities. I was particularly struck with her take on how social engagement evolves through maturity into adulthood and more defined societal and professional environments:

“Looking at educational development, teens and young adults tend to have more superficial relationships as they are still creating their identity. Regardless of what tools are available, or even what culture you are looking at, teens will belong to multiple communities. As we age, however, and our identity is established, either by profession, culture, religion, local community, or a larger global community, we tend to limit those organizations and communities we join or are actively engaged in. This happens with or without technology.”

This seems to me to offer a much more astute perspective with which we might try to understand engagement with the social web than many accounts that focus on generational differences determined by technological competencies or psychological wiring. Though I would argue that our identity is never fully ‘established’ as such (as that would almost suggest we stop learning), recognising the learning trajectory as a process of identity formation that is situated and socially and culturally negotiated resonates with many of the conceptual ideas I am exploring.

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2 Responses to “Re: Engaging with Social Media”

  1. virginia Yonkers Says:

    I suggest that you read “Emile” by Rousseau if you have not done so already. What struck me when I was required to read it for a class (and still does as I have a teenage boy and girl) is how, for the most part, many of his observations would fit today’s adolescents even though the world is a much different place.

    I terms of the self identity being established or changing, I think after a certain age, our self identity is “set”. This is not to say we won’t or can’t change, but rather it takes a conscious effort to change our “core” (and a good reason, usually a critical event such as death in the family, divorce, loss of job, marriage, birth, etc…). This is why it is more “difficult” to change older people’s habits. As their identity is well established, they will need to have a good reason to change their core identity. On the other hand, as I watch my children mature, I see them trying on an identity almost weekly! They are open to any values, which they will try out, but then discard (or choose aspects of) for something new. And looking at the adolescent research, consumer behavior research, and adult learning research, this seems to be supported.

    Of course, within any generation, you will have some whose “core” identity is one in which there is little change, while others will be more open to change and new ways of doing things. Those who tend to be resistant to change, as they grow older, will also be resistant to “life long learning.”

  2. Andy Coverdale Says:

    I’ve added Emile to my ever-expanding list of ‘books to read.’

    Having made several major career shifts (both enforced and self-directed), I’m mindful of how identity in adulthood can still be subject to dramatic changes. In these situations, it’s interesting to think how much – and in what ways – our ‘core’ identities are actually shaped by our need to establish and redefine professional identities. I also wonder if significant changes to our core identity (necessitated by the type of events you describe) are ever totally conscious.

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