The age of TMI: I’m guilty, are you?

This trend of putting it all out there was not started by teenagers — some would argue that it started with MTV’s Real World and the resulting proliferation of reality television, the explosion in the publishing genre of memoir and then with blogs, which really began as personal, public diaries. Look at the recent cover stories of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, reg. required, (Emily Gould and David Carr) — we are in the midst of a personal sharing explosion. Some may feel it’s self indulgent, TMI or oversharing, others find comfort in realizing they are not alone in their pain and suffering or even in the mundane. But before we pin this on teenagers, we need to acknowledge that they are simply reflecting the cultural values they are growing up with.

Any adult who keeps a really personal public blog under their own name runs just as much risk of being not hired or fired as any young person. And then there is the issue of mom bloggers who blog about their children and teenagers, adding to their kids’ “digital trails.” Don’t blame “the kids” for what has been a much larger cultural shift. Thoughts?

Ypulse: Daily news & commentary about Generation Y for media and marketing professionals

Man. Anastasia is awesome. It’s funny how she brings up this most excellent post (check out Ypulse for beginning to end, link is above).

The age of Tech-TMI. Adults, we’re “playing” in this Tech-TMI. It’s a new experience built upon previous knowledge. Less like “thriving within” and more like “adding on” (or aiding TO our previous knowledge/experience). We have lived on two sides of the fence – we have dual concepts of such behavior patterns and social needs/abilities. But youth? Oh dear. What about them?

My boss (who is awesome, by the way) was talking about kids he saw while at dinner in the Wynn in Vegas this last weekend. The kids were texting and playing games, lounging about like they had crudely melted into the seats. Apparently when the mother said “Sit up”, the son dismissed her with a flick of his hand and continued texting and playing games all through dinner.

I would have taken that phone and flung it across the room, lol.

The tater tots that I’ve been talking to are THRIVING with various forms of instant communications – no barrier to convo, no time for contemplation. What is that going to do to the art of conversation? Better yet, the ability to thrive alone – 1 hour with NO outside communication/no gaming (and no naps to fill in the time gaps).

Will such a thing exist?

Now, as I worry about youth – I have to point my finger at myself (prepare yourself for an izzy ramble, folks). I have been ridiculous about my communication levels lately – from multitasking (currently IM + Virtual World + Email + texting + google groups have been my high point of tech-play-at-once, and as soon as I get a phone call to my office phone while doing all of those things… I think i’ll rule the world). Sweet Jimney Christmas, Batman! And what’s worse – I’ve been relying on tech to help me deal with situations, and poppets… das ist not gut.

Mistakes made, questions, info sharing – all in the personal life – have opened up a new channel of individual understanding and behavior patterns. Worse, Tech TMI has become a sinking sand pit of dependency, and for as tech great as that might seem – it’s not doing me any favors. As Anastasia says,

Some may feel it’s self indulgent, TMI or oversharing, others find comfort in realizing they are not alone in their pain and suffering or even in the mundane.

In many ways, TMI Tech (texting, IMing, Emailing, Web groups, VW, TWITTER, facebook, etc) offer so many opportunities to get your unfiltered thoughts, your unfiltered responses, your snap judgments, your momentary rage, your sassy comments, your gushy love stuff, etc, into the world for anyone (especially the uninvolved) to see.

Sure instantaneous info-sharing can be great. I’ve been a thousand times better about people’s birthdays, and it’s been absolutely brazilliant for me to keep in touch with my beloved friends from home in short bursts (as opposed to long phone calls).

But how much is too much? And are kids able to understand the difference any more? They’ve been WELL immersed for some time now, and they’re developing socially through this time with the aid of constant access to VARIOUS networking tools. Constant access to peers. Constant access to lurkers and eavesdroppers and other naredowells.

I’ve rambled & ranted in the past about the TMI, social networking, and getting hired in the future. And yes, that is a HUGE issue that deserves much time & thought & education. But this idea of “how close is too close” or “how much is too much” is worrisome too.

And even as I say this – I still have clever lil one liners going through my head, queuing up for my facebook status, and I still look forward to the chain-o-emails in my gmail from one of my google groups, and I still need to send a couple of response texts awaiting my attention on my phone. And by the way – I’m starting to spend more time on my wireless web connection on my phone then actually calling people.

It has always behooved me to be transparent with work, but does it behoove me to be transparent with personal life? There has got to be a line. How do we teach kids what that line is? I guess that’s a play by play, parent by parent experience, isn’t it?

What about you guys – what are your experiences? What are your worries? Am I alone in this Tech TMI – or just in limbo while the youth of the world catch up? Please feel free to ring in….

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  1. Barbara
    August 6, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Ironically, what I’m doing right now confirms just how pertinent this topic is.

    What is it about digital communication that sucks us in? It is too instant, and in some ways too safe, to resist. That isn’t a bad thing. But as with all internet activities, it’s easy to feel that we’re expanding our 24-hour day, rather than losing a chunk of real time.

    How many of us believe that if we were simply competent enough, we could multi-task just as well as all those “dual-life” pros we know must be out there?

    I’m not comfortable with what people feel free to share on some sites, but in my opinion, the amount of time spent creating and responding to that info has a bigger impact on individuals than the content itself.

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