I think that breaking society down to Generation This or That, based on age groups is simplistic, but from what I’ve been observing for some time now, it seems that Generation Z, also known as Zoomers, born between the mid-1990s and the 2010s, seem to prefer to be anonymous online, presumably bringing to an end the previous generation’s fixation with personal branding, attention, and influence .
In contrast to Millennials’ obsession with Instagram , Zoomers use tools such as Tumblr — which after years of neglect in the hands of Yahoo! has blossomed under the ownership of Automattic — or Discord, sites where most people use pseudonyms and profiles that guarantee their anonymity.
After a generation focused on social networks, using profiles with name and surname in the hope of becoming an influencer, we’re now seeing the search for interaction on the network free from the pressures of personal branding and searches.
Unless they are kind enough to give you their username, which in many cases they hide even from members of their family, it’s hard to know who you’re really talking to. With Millennials, when new students came to my business school, it was easy to find them on social networks, and anybody who kept a low profile was considered weird. Now, apparently, the name of the game is to have a “secret” profile, anonymized with a username that may not be shared with anybody, typically with no photograph or personal information. As for group photos, that requires getting the permission of everybody in the frame.
Discord now has 150 million users, and many young people participate in group discussion, but typically exchange messages, threads and conversations using a temporary username or a pseudonym. The online photos or videos from when they were younger are now seen as embarrassing or uncomfortable. Living in public means treading carefully: they know that a future employer can find them with a few searches and potentially discover a huge amount of information about them.
Anonymity is already the trend in the United States, and has been spreading to other countries for some time. It’s very much a defining characteristic of the new generation, as it was in the early days of the Internet to participate in forums, Usenet groups or IRCs in which users also used to identify themselves by pseudonyms. A sign of the times, reinterpreted by a different generation.
(En español, aquí)
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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