Modernist fears of postmodern behavior

As a person who studies and writes about applied postmodernism, I find absolutely fascinating a Wall St. Journal article today called “Growing Up in Public.” Writer Jason Fry offers concerns about regrets that young people today will have in years to come when people can learn anything they want about someone via the web. Saying they are “blithely unaware of the consequences,” Fry points to a story that says “a quarter of human-resources decision makers had rejected job candidates because of personal information found online.”

This is a textbook illustration of the conflict between modernism and postmodernism.

But Fry rightly concludes that “Before Netters” and “After Netters” (“netters” referring to the internet) are different people, and that today’s HR manager will one day be replaced by one a little more forgiving of the public personas that accompany young people growing up.

I think Before Netters like me are the ones who seem out of step, leading lives that seem hermetic in comparison with those who grew up in cyberpublic. For better or worse, decrying what kids reveal on some MySpace successor will soon seem as painfully out of it as grumbling that teenage boys and girls shouldn’t use the telephone to chat unsupervised.

Take whatever side you like in that debate, but it won’t matter — the world will change and render the argument moot. It’s done so before: Those who saw the telephone as a destructive force in communities might have had — and might still have — a point, but technological changes have left them on the fringe of society. And keep in mind that no commentor in the history of the world ever went broke worrying that today’s kids are immoral swine.

This is very insightful of the shifts in trust and connectivity in the age of participation. As I often remind people, be careful in looking at the new through old eyes, because we really are in the midst of a vast cultural change in the west.

That’s not to say that we won’t traverse some bumpy and rocky roads along the way, but it’s a path we all need to be on. We need to rethink just about everything.

NOTE TO THE WSJ: You’re shooting yourself in the foot with your video player. The pre-roll ad came up quickly, but the video I clicked to see never did. Nice.


  1. i wonder about people like this.

    i bet i can tell you who holds the mortgage on Mr. Fry’s home. and if i can do that, imagine what else i could unearth online. public records for everyone are all over the internet. our county registrar just upgraded their system to make search “even easier”(their words). creepy, but true.

    you might not post anything on myspace or anywhere out of paranoia, but that doesn’t mean its not gonna getcha.


  1. […] Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog: Modernist fears of postmodern behavior A Jason Fry article in the Wall Street Journal highlights that digital immigrants’ worries about young people’s self-exposure on social media sites is a case of “modernist fears of postmodern behaviour”. (tags: socialnetworks privacy semipublic moralpanics) […]

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