Gen O and Privacy

I love when the style pages talk about politics: it's the same level of discourse you'll get on any other pages in the paper (that says more about the rest of the paper than the style writers), but instead of interviewing wonks and pundits, they interview Chuck D and the writer of "Mad Men."

This story is all about Generation O, by which they mean young adults up to age 29, although they are nice enough to include a few of us over-29ers:

These young voters and those slightly older, who together may forever be known as Generation O, were the ground troops of the campaign.


Gen O is supposed to mean "the Obama Generation," the generation that chose a non-Baby Boom president over a Baby Boom president, and so helped push history out of the Mid-20th Century and into the present moment.

I'm happy to be (optionally) included in this group, and I wonder if there is a sharp drop in Obama support above the age of 29 -- I certainly hope not! I know that "people my age" are not uniform in their views, but neither are people 4 years younger than me, right?

The article sates the universal taste for the pseudo-scientific (the very definition of fun) when it talks (as a style article must) about trends:

It would be hard to overestimate how much communication and an informal tone means to this generation. They have poured out their foibles and triumphs on blogs, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter. Older Americans see this as dangerous exhibitionism, but young adults believe the conversation leads to open-mindedness and consensus.


And this is where I have to give it to them: there are some people my age and just a little older who are not just uncomfortable with the technologies themselves, but are outright opposed to them. They are uncomfortable with what they've meant culturally: the death of privacy. Not privacy itself as in being monitored at all times by Big Brother, but as a socially-accepted and treasured value -- it is the death of the respect people used to have for privacy. You're more likely to get called out for being unreasonably coy or sneaky or for "putting up walls" in our Brave New World than to have a single person respect your desire to keep your affairs private.

I realized this back in about 2002 or so and decided (consciously) to throw in my hand with the younger set. It was definitely a conscious decision: I was raised in a world where privacy was expected and encouraged -- in 2002, I realized I was living in a world where young people had almost universal contempt for that idea. Now those young people are in their late 20s and are having kids. This is how the world changes.

I wonder how long one can keep it up, though. Eventually, if you live long enough, there could be enough cultural changes in generations that follow you that you find yourself a relic, a useless alien to the living world whom everyone else is simply waiting for to die so that they can move on quicker and keep changing: the old white people who, in this election, simply couldn't vote for a black person for president come to mind. Who wants to end up like them?

This presidential election will undoubtedly be the last when I get lumped into (in any way, even as an afterthought extension of the concept, as in this article) "the youth vote." By the 2012 election I will be 37, and there is no one so generous as to call that "youth." By the 2012 election, a large percentage of those prejudiced old white people will have died and the electoral effect of the culture of the past will have diminished.

I want to know what will happen to privacy when people my age hit their 80s? Will it cease to exist? In law, in culture itself?

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