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The Social Side of Generation Y

What is the number one phenomenon surrounding Generation Y (or those born after 1980)? If you have a computer and access to the internet, I’m sure that almost 100 percent of you might respond with Social Networking, and you’re absolutely correct.

Social Networking is what defines my generation, and being a Y-er, I fully embrace the social networking lifestyle. It’s true when they say that those of us born after 1980 are part of a ME generation. We are constantly forcing those around us to think about our feelings via a virtual message board made available by such internet vehicles like Facebook and MySpace, and for those of us with an attention span of a three year old, Twitter. We want the world to know how we feel at any given moment, and we want to be validated, dammit!

We shamelessly purge our feelings out into the open, without regard to who might be reading on the other side. I know this is all true, because I have always been a supporter of the social revelations and connections made through these sites that were created by my fellow Y-ers. I admit to tweeting on occasion, with special attention paid to ability to be witty in 140 or characters or less. I like the challenge it brings, and I like to be able to vent about things going on in my life, albeit the short nature of the message being pushed out into the world wide web.

I have always been free about my personal thoughts made public. I believe I should be able to say what I want, when I want to, and the world should just accept and digest my thoughts without feeling the need to censor me.

As a recent college graduate, I have read many articles warning of the dangers of “letting it all hang out” on your Facebook/Myspace/Twitter. I have worked for offices in the past, and yes, I’ll admit to making sure my profile was locked up tight, but I NEVER ONCE censored myself, or my beliefs, even if they went against company policy. When I lost my last office job, I began working at a bar full time. It was here, I thought, that I could be myself to the fullest weirdest extent possible. I dyed my hair crayola red, pierced my face, and wore short sleeves, showing off my tattoos. I never once thought that my opinions about my working environment or my customers would ever come into play in this laid-back atmosphere.

And then I got the proverbial slap in the face.

My boss called me into work early last weekend, and I was hoping it was just going to be a quick meeting about the nature of business at the bar, but I was grossly mistaken. This man, who is in his forties, began reciting to me, verbatim, various tweets I had sent out at different times during the past few months. I suppose he had been talking to someone the other night about Twitter as a marketing tool, and it came up that I had a Twitter account. Well, because I had been foolish enough to leave my tweets public, he logged in and read them all, including the ones I had written about my workplace.

I was in shock. I felt violated, I felt like those tweets were meant to be read by my friends only, and not just that, but here was this man trying to censor what I put out into the virtual world. Now, I have never said anything negative about my job, but I have made cruel remarks about customers that have rubbed me the wrong way, and he was telling me that I could no longer do that if I wanted to keep my job.

I couldn’t quite figure out how I felt about the situation because I felt violated, but since I had put these thoughts into a public forum accessible by anyone with a computer and an internet connection, I felt like that possibly I should redact those things I have said in the past, because even though it’s just a bar, I am still a representative of a place of business.

This is my question though, do we have to live our lives acting as representatives of what we do for a living? When can we take off that mask as employee and be who we truly are, in a very public world where we now share everything with a few words and a click of the mouse? How can we balance both of those worlds and coexist with both sides? I suppose the most obvious answer is to make everything extremely private and hope that the wrong person does not come across your personal life? Which world is going to have to adjust to make room for the other? The professional world or social networking?

I truly feel that with Generation Y, the inner social workings of our society are changing. This is a generation that does not want to live to work, but work to live. We want to have meaningful lives and less and less of are using a career as an identity. And we should be allowed to type that in 140 characters of less if we so choose.