Going (digitally) native

You see them everywhere.

If you’re in public whilst reading this, it’s likely there is a young person in close proximity doing something whizzy in digi-land on their phone/iPad/other techy device. It could be the uni student sitting next to you on the train, with supersonic thumbs texting at an inconceivable speed; or the intern, who can find an answer for you online before you’ve even finished asking the question. Maybe that person is you.

Sound familiar? Having no wifi is like telling us to sit in the corner.

Meet the Millennials (better known as Gen Y) – aka – digital natives.

Digital natives speak the language of technology. They are drivers of the changing nature of the way we communicate with each other in the digital landscape. Their friendships, social interactions, and activities are facilitated by digital technologies. They have a ‘social’ mentality and are regarded as ‘prosumers’ who produce as much as they consume information / content. They proactively seek and demand information from the people around them and from the companies they engage with to make more informed decisions about what they want.

I am a digital native and I’ve been preoccupied with the Internet since I was old enough to use the computer. I can’t imagine life without either (and often freak out when my phone dies or I don’t have net connection). In the past year, “social media” has been bandied about as a buzzword and to me; it barely registers as a ‘new’ thing so much as something I’m already familiar with and have been using for years.

So what do we digital natives look like? Here are some tips for spotting us:

  • We are technology-obsessed. Technology is second nature to us and the digital world is integrated in our lives. We use it to seek opportunities and information. In fact, technology is almost an extension of our brains (an external memory card if you will) and our online / offline identities are fluid
  • We’re connected. Always. We have plenty of friends in the virtual world as much as in real life and our friendship networks grow everyday
  • Information is at the tips of our fingers and it is ours to control and reshape – from creating, sharing and collaborating on content to editing our Facebook profiles – we mostly rely on technology and the online world to access all the knowledge we need
  • We learn, study, work and interact with each other in ways that differ from the generations before us

Watch out for us!


10 thoughts on “Going (digitally) native

  1. Great post. What’s your thoughts on when this generation starts? There’s some (refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Y footnote 6) who say it’s as early as the 1970s (!) but I don’t think this is the case. I think a “digital native” is someone who doesn’t remember their first use of the internet, because it was always there. For me, I don’t remember my first use of a telephone or watching TV – they were just part of the house – but I was old enough to remember using the internet for the first time at school, and clearly recall the exciting times of getting dial-up at home (14kb/s, whoa!!!). I’m a child of the early 1980s and I don’t think I’m quite in the “digital native” generation. That’s not to say I’m not completely obsessed now… 😉

    • Thanks Tam and I certainly agree that a digital native is someone who doesn’t remember their first use of the internet. As to your question on when this generation starts, I’m feeling like 1970s is a rough guide to when digital natives ‘came into being’ since it coincides with the proliferation of technology. I’m tempted to say that perhaps there is a transitionary period where some people in the 70s were more active in (or exposed to) the digital space over others hence the grey-ness of whether someone is or isn’t.

      Maybe you could be a ‘digital immigrant’… someone who has adopted to technology use but continues to retain their pre-tech days and will often turn to the Internet second rather than first (but likely you’re a native!).

      • Good point Alicia. There are loads of people in their 30s and 40s who are just as hooked on technology as those in their teens or 20s. They know what it was like to not have facebook, a mobile or the internet… but now wonder how on earth they lived without it!

  2. Really interesting post. Like you, I freak out if my phone dies or god forbid, I leave it at home when I leave for work! I’ll be fascinated to see the impact technology has on the kids of today. If they are teaching pre-schoolers about social media via Play School now, I can only imagine it will be second nature to them. It could also become problematic in terms of their ability to socialise outside of the online sphere. Much to think about…

  3. Sadly I doubt I would succeed with that challenge either… but it’s really interesting to see how far social media has come and how much of an impact it is having on society today. The introduction of a campaign- in a similar vein to Dry July, encouraging people to stop drinking for a month- seems to imply that social media is unhealthy. I wonder how true this is? Great article Alicia and a fascinating conversation 🙂

  4. Pingback: BEYOND THE ‘DIGITAL NATIVES’ DEBATE – Bennett & Maton | krystinatriscari

  5. Pingback: Digital Media and Society


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