A Gen Y version of social anything

A Gen Y version of social anything

Summary: My son provides an interesting proxy for Gen Y. What he wants and expects may surprise some people.

joe myspacing it
Joe Howlett MySpacing it 5 years ago

The last week, my 22 year old son Joe and his girlfirend have been visiting. Joe's about to embark on his final university year as a fine arts student. He's already started selling bits of art and knows the internet plays an important part in his future career as a creative person. It's the first time he's been over in some five years but then our house has been a work in progress for much of that time, bordering on uninhabitable as we ripped it to pieces and re-assembled. But that's another tale. 

Last time Joe visited, he was using a Thinkpad and MySpace. Not only that, I recall being gobsmacked at how he could multi-task: listening to music, answering messages on MySpace while doing some schoolwork on a single device. He was the person who really switched me on to social networks but more important, the power of digital relationships for getting things done. At the time it was one of those ah-ha moments where you just know your world has changed. 

sea of faces
Sea of Faces - Joe Howlett

Over the years I've occasionally checked in with him to see where he is taking technology and this visit was a great opportunity to catch up. I had intended to get something on video but time ran out on us as we concentrated more on food and the beach. Even so, I spent a fruitful couple of hours asking questions. Here are some of the answers:

Q: If you were in the workplace would you expect to get access to Facebook?

A: Not at all. Facebook is for me and I'm not sure it would be used much by any employer right now.

Q: Not even in arts?

A: Well I guess so but not my personal Facebook thing. 

Q: Would you expect the business applications you would need to use be as easy to use as Facebook?

A: I'd hope so but then if you're in work you use what you're given.

Q: How important do you think the Internet will be to you as an artist?

A: Banksy was a throw back against the institutionalization of artwork and the selective cropping of what people saw. So he utilized the streets as a gallery to get his artwork out there for free and to people who may not even consider stepping to a gallery in the first place. Along with this came a playful interaction between the artwork and the street, adding to its fresh appeal. But yes he did also exploit the power of the internet and its viral outbursts of personal selection that helped to promote his work. So yes, it is important. 

Q: So how did you sell your first big piece?

A: Some person I don't know turned up at the exhibition and really liked my piece. She got hold of me over the Internet and we went from there. 

Q: So digital isn't everything?

A: Most artists know they need some sort of real space. When you think about it, art that you hang on a wall is real so you need to see and visualise it. People still want to go to galleries. It's about finding the right space for your stuff.

Q: What about the effect of networks?

A: Online networks are clearly where the action can be but I'm not going to fool myself into believing I am not in competition with lots of other people online or that it is the only place to be. 

Q: But guys like Hugh MacLeod have made a great business online so why not you?

A: Hugh's doing something different which obviously works for him. I'm not saying it wouldn't work for me because I know the little I have done is getting my name out there but I don't want to be trapped into one kind of outlet. Not yet anyway.  

Q: What do you think of Twitter?

A: I can see the importance of it and at the end of the day millions of people use it, but for me at the moment I feel like I can do everything that it does through the other social medias 

Q: It helps build networks, right?

A: Yeah, but there's a lot of geeky shit going on there and other stuff that doesn't seem relevent to me right now. 

Q: What do you use for a blog?

A: Tumblr. It's dead easy and it makes sense to me plus all my art school mates are on it. 

Q: What about Pinterest and Instagram?

A: Yeah, yeah, they are good places as well. I need to get more into those. There's so much to get done. 

Q: So what about photos, what do you do there?

A: The main reason I don't like shooting thousands of photos is because it reduces your consideration to the composition and overall image. However I don't truly believe that you can either visualize something or you can't, a happy accident plays a big role in my practice! 

Q: Your site's a bit basic. What are you doing about it?

A: Hehe...well I've not had time or money to sort it out but when something's free then who's complaining? People are finding my stuff so I guess it can't be all bad. [Note, there will be a redesign soon and some commerce stuff added in.]

Q: Do you buy into this idea that everything should be online and social?

A: That's silly. I like to keep a lot of my photos in analog. Who knows, Google might fall over one day - I kind of know it won't but what happens if it did? Besides, I like to keep some stuff just for friends and family. That's not easy on the Internet is it?

Q: So you do see a value in having a separate private part of your life that is only available and shared to a few people?

A: Absolutely. Who cares about my baby pics except you, me Kirsty (sister) and mum and in any event, why should my entire life be one big digital thing? And what about those embarrassing haircuts I've had?

So - do you think my son is representative of Gen Y or has he regressed in some way over the last few years? I'd like to think he's being pragmatic given his situation in life. From talking to his girlfriend, she seems to take a similar approach to the interwebs. But when you strip away all the glitz and shiny toys stuff with which analysts are so enamored and talk to real people it soon becomes apparent that being pragmatic and making it through the day is uppper most in their minds. In that sense, I don't believe my son is any different to anyone else. 

Topic: Social Enterprise

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Why would this surprise people?

    Surprise, an entire generation isn't a single giant stereotype. There's an entire range of people with a huge range of experiences. I spend 90% of my life on the internet in some form, but I can count the number of times I've been to a social network on one hand. I'm 23. Does that make me strange? No. Because I'm an individual. I know a bunch of meat heads who can code with the best of them and I know some of the dumbest smart people you'll ever meet. Being surprised by a single person is stupid.

    On another note, when is listening to music, messaging people, and doing homework considered serious multitasking? Listening to music is passive, and messaging people only takes a few seconds every few minutes, assuming an involved conversation.
    • Hold it tiger

      Did you read: "do you think my son is representative of Gen Y?" and just because YOU can do more than one thing at a time doesn't mean everyone can. My generation were never taught or needed those skills. A lot harder than YOU might imagine. And if you've read past stuff from me you'll also know this is not a one off by any stretch.
    • Insight into social networking from the perspective of a developing artist

      For me the discussions that were held which led to this series of answers were primarily focused on the development and awareness generated for me as an artist, through the medium of social networking.

      Yes I do use Facebook to converse and share with family and friends, but that is mainly for personal use. It's not often that you meet someone that doesn't have, or regularly use a Facebook account, however if I am to do so I say hats off to you if you can do without.

      But on the other hand the powers of social networking, not just through friends and family but accelerating the creation of new connections from around the world, with people who share similar interest is now starting to play a big role in the development of me as and artist. So in which case it would be stupid to ignore these opportunities and utilize them as best as possible. Particularly because most of them are free and used buy the large percentage of my market.

      Social networking for me means the use of Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and so on, which in a visual practice are invaluable resources. But I guess that may depend on whether you are involved or have interest in visual work or not.

      Whether this will surprise people or isn't a survey of everyone who uses the internet doesn't really matter. The fact is the use of social networking is constantly changing and its uses expanding far beyond what anyone could have predicted, so to pass this off as something that is invaluable would be ignorant.

      As for the "loss of identity" that you seem to be referring to, if you use the internet so much then you will know that making yourself individual is important if you want to be noticed. Which, is achievable just as successfully through the use of social networks as any other platform. (And probably a lot cheaper) So being individual is down to the person, and if that person is individual then they will be noticed...

      Dennis (my dad) utilizes social networking in some different ways to me but all the same rules apply in terms of business. Don't have fear in social networks, they can suck people in, and are full of shit, but you can use them to your advantage!

      A final note is that multi tasking when referring to the use of computers cannot be dismissed as not being "serious multitasking", when using Facebook, Gmail, Tumblr, Photoshop, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, iTunes and Vimeo all simultaneously I would say that is about as multi tasking as it gets. I believe that as someone from a decade of growing up always having access to a computer this does come very naturally and has developed with the technology however to some, this may be pure madness...
      Joe Howlett
      • You shouldn't have posted so soon bro

        Now it's totally gonna look like your dad is advertising for you