What sort of relationships are young people forming online? Who are they connecting with?
Most of what’s happening is they’re building relationships, they’re engaging socially, they’re seeking validation, they’re seeking negotiation of status, and this is happening both on and offline in a very fluid way. My generation was much more about “going online” and it being this separate universe, in many ways a totally separate social world with social rules and scripts and what not. But for a lot of young people, it is a fluid environment that moves between their offline and online worlds. The technology doesn’t act as a separator.
And what you end up having is two different clusters of kids. You have kids who are getting all they need in terms of validation and status, and everything else from school, peers in the physical world, peers from church, summer camp, activities, school, those kinds of obvious physical environments. They are just replicating their networks and their community online, using all the online tools — IM, email, blogs, Myspace, that kind of thing — to talk to the people that they already have networks formulated around.
You still also have the marginalized and ostracized kids who are actually actively seeking out a community of peers online because they don’t have one offline. This is who I was growing up. The assumption from the earlier days of the Internet was that this latter [behavior] is all that the kids were doing, and actually that’s become the less common practice.
Read this interview with danah boyd from Alternet. Previously from WNM: Lose your password. Remake yourself, The “Out there” crowd. A profile of online community attitudes and Where the wired things are.