Growing up with Facebook: A millennial’s perspective on internet privacy


Today’s young adults, born after or around 1995, have most likely never seen a day without some form of social technology. Social media platforms such as Facebook have been available since 2004, meaning today’s millennials have had access since they were still in grade school, quite literally growing up with Facebook. One would think with all the experience millennials have with social media, and with how prominent it has become in today’s world, they would be quite savvy when it came to issues like internet privacy. Recent research, however, suggests this is not the case. A generation that has been logging onto social media platforms since they were children should undoubtedly have a stronger understanding of the applications they are frequenting and the security concerns they are raising.  

There is no denying the value and prominence of social media among millennials. The dominance of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, all owned by Facebook is evident. Snapchat alone is valued at an estimated $16 billion. The worth of such social currency is expressed in multiple pros: amplifying persona, meeting new people, sharing opinions, conveying ideas, making connections, and just general fun.

Too focused on feeds

However, the prominence of social media is hindering millennials’ ability to socialize in real life. A recent survey, conducted by Flashgap SAS, a photo-sharing application, showed that 87 percent of millennials say they miss out on a conversation because they were distracted by their phone. Fifty-four percent admitted they experience a fear of missing out (FOMO) if they do not consistently check-in with their social networks. Flashgap co-founder Julien Kebab reported of the near 3,000 participants asked about social media in social settings, 54 percent of males checked social media platforms at least ten times in a social setting, with females ringing in at 76 percent.

A similar study conducted by Virginia Tech University in 2014 suggested that cell phones undermine real-life social interactions. Virginia Tech University reports, “the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections.”  In so many words, social media makes us less social.

Another major aspect is how millennials use social media platforms as news sources. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube make news-related articles and videos incredibly accessible, and easy to share with just the click of a button. In one survey conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 88 percent said they get news from Facebook at least occasionally, 83 percent from YouTube LLC, and 50 percent from Instagram (Facebook, Inc.). Reports also showed 36 percent get news from Pinterest, Inc., 33 percent from Twitter, Inc., 23 percent from Reddit, Inc., and 21 percent from Tumblr, Inc.

Millennials are so plugged in that they miss out on actual social interactions, so what about privacy? If millennials are so focused on their social media platforms that they undermine real social situations, then they should be just as concerned about their privacy on such platforms. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Tech generation not security savvy?

Quite the opposite seems to be true. One high school teacher observed that since millennials were born and raised on technology and social media, they do not understand what the world was like before internet privacy was a major concern. In a classroom with children around 14-years old, almost none of them reported using Facebook and Twitter. Instead, nearly all used Snapchat, Inc. and Instagram exclusively. When asked about the use of privacy settings or censoring their posts for future employers, et cetera, the kids were reported as “clueless” as none described taking such precautions.

Data pulled from Norton Security showed that 15 percent of baby boomers have disclosed an online password to someone else, compared to 20 percent of Gen X’ers, and 31 percent of millennials. According to CSO magazine editor Joan Goodchild, “Millennials, who have grown up around technology and are so used to using it, might not view that device they are bringing to work or that computer they have been given to get their work done on as something … insecure. They really see it as a tool to get things done.”

These statistics could be due to general online activity of millennials, or that their mindset is so focused on sharing just about anything. Millennials’ high-risk behavior with cybersecurity is in part a result of the tendency to diversify their information-sharing sources, which is unlike that of older generations, who in general use less social media sources; less outlets mean less risks.

In fact, a new Symantec Corp. survey suggests baby boomers are more aware about cybersecurity than the millennials. The Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report showed that respondents are more anxious for their security, but it is the older generations that are more likely to take the steps in order to ensure that security. Furthermore, less than one third of millennials in that report felt they are to blame if an online crime happened to them. According to Symantec, baby boomers are the least likely to experience cybercrime, because they are more likely to take proactive security measures, shown by 42 percent using a secure password and only 15 percent sharing passwords.

The generation gap continues on into the workplace.  surveyed Fortune 500 executives across the country and found that 80 percent of them reported communication across generations to be a challenging issue in the workplace. More businesses are paying mind to generational gaps, which seem to come down to perception and usage of technology.

According to Forrester Research, 31 percent of millennials believe their technology at home is better than that at work. It appears the generation gap is that of a technology gap in the workplace. Another Forrester study showed that millennials viewed technology as a critical part of their life and work. In contrast, Gen X’ers mainly reported using technology for convenience purposes, like online banking and shopping. Technology has not shown to be as central to their lives.

We are entering an era where the face of personal communication is evolving — even being taken over by technology. For millennials, the virtual world of Facebook and Instagram continues to dominate the social media atmosphere, intrusively slithering into our face-to-face interactions. If social media undermines, and often hinders our human ability to converse with one another, it is no wonder security is such a current issue. A generation that is so willing to share and receive personal information, pictures, and opinions should be just as actively making an effort to ensure these functions are secure.

Photo by gruntzooki