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Will persistent social networks change the way our minds work?

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Marketing Strategy

How will my kids see the Web?

I’m 27. I went online for the first time in 1995, when I was 13. Being introduced to the Web when it was still in a very 1.0 state colored the way I’ve used computers ever since. Sure, I’m up on all the latest social sites, and I’m well-versed in Web 2.0 theory.  Social networking is at least 1/3 of my job — more on a good day.

But it shows in little ways — for instance, I still attribute content to Web sites. When my brother, who is 10 years younger than I am, talks about something he saw online, he attributes it to the person who showed it to him. Where the content originally came from never comes up. On a subconscious level, the Web will probably always be an information superhighway for me, filled with destinations that I visit. For him, it’s a conversation he’s having all the time with everyone he knows. Little distinction. Big difference.

How will my kids see the Web? If The Economist is right, the gap will be even more pronounced. The Web won’t just be about virtual destinations. It won’t just be about connections between people, either. It will be about connections between everything — between people and places and inanimate things, all at once, everywhere, forever. If I’m guessing correctly, Jesse Jr. won’t care about where information comes from OR who helped him find it. Information will simply appear from the cloud, based on where he is and what he’s doing.

And that’s only the outlook if I had kids tomorrow. In another five years, the prognosis might be different still. I wonder if these culture vantage points are immutable. Can I learn to think like my brother? Will I be able to understand my hypothetical child’s point of view? I don’t think these differences will affect my ability to adapt and put new technology to work — after all, my dad is more plugged-in than I am. But they might come up in other ways — in the way I process information, the way I assess a situation, the way I attack a problem.

Do fundamental differences exist between the way difference age groups use the social Web? Are these differences important? Can you re-learn how to perceive the Web?

Image credit, pavlen, via iStock