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Pew Internet Research recently published a study on the future of social networking.  The study was based on a survey of technology experts over how users of social-networking tools plan to use their favorite services 10 years from now. The Pew study indicates that Millennials are using social networking tools now and will likely continue to do so for the next 10 years,

According to the Pew study, 67 percent of respondents believe that those born in the 1980s and 1990s will be “ambient broadcasters” on social networks in 2020. They will continue to “disclose a great deal of personal information, in order to stay connected, and take advantage of social, economic, and political opportunities.” Only 29 percent of respondents said that by 2020, Generation Y will have “grown out” of social networks, finding other interests to entertain themselves.

Most of those surveyed noted that the disclosure of personal information online carries many social benefits as people open up to others in order to build friendships, form and find communities, seek help, and build their reputations. They said digital natives have already seen the benefits and will not reduce their use of these social tools over the next decade as they take on more responsibilities while growing older.

A key component in the value of social networks to Millennials is that they see a significant social benefit in being on sites like Facebook or Twitter. According to the surveyed technology experts, they view it as an avenue to help them “build friendships, form and find communities, seek help, and build their reputations.” Generation Y will continue to see those benefits through 2020.  However, there is more to it than relationships. Millennials are far more willing to offer up information than previous generations because “new social norms that reward disclosure are already in place among the young.” They will carry that with them into adulthood.

On the other hand, those who disagree with the important role social networks will play in the roles of Millennials say life will get in the way of social-networking activities. Dissenting experts contented that Generation Y “will not have as much time in the future to devote to popular activities such as frequently posting to the world at large on YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook about the nitty-gritty of their lives.”

In either case, it will be interesting to see how Millennials respond to social networks as they grow older, as well as how Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will evolve.  I suppose time will tell.

The Pew Report is available online at:  http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Future-of-Millennials/Overview.aspx?r=1

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