Identity integrity of adults and children in internet world, physical world

Having children was the best thing I have ever done. Ever since my first son was born 26 years ago, my children taught me more than anybody else I know.

Living together with mother-in-law, husband and children was the next best thing. As researcher, I would always be stimulated.

One of the most amazing things my children taught me recently is the way they relate to the internet and physical world. Maybe it is just in Japan, but a few years ago, one would not reveal one’s true identity on the web. It was a different world, a second life where you live as someone else. I guess most of humans are not good at living two lives. Because by now, people who has been living in internet and physical world for years act pretty much the same way as they had in the physical world. The professional social network, LinkedIn, only makes sense if we reveal our professional history. Facebook friends are not real friends unless if we reveal who we are. At the same time, living in both internet and physical world is more strict than just in physical world, because we are scrutinized in many instances. If we uploaded silly photograph of ourselves, or if we wrote indecent comment on the web, we instantly devalue our worth. I have been sensing this for some years now, but I have been amazed that my children and their friends who grew up with internet have just as much integrity about maintaining their reputation as we adults do.

When my 17 year-old and I were discussing the use of Twitter about a year ago, his advise not to retweet other people’s tweets struck me. He said, you do not know the full intention or meaning of tweets, and you should not casually repeat what others say. He is very careful not to write anything that would harm his reputation on the web. He knows the implication of tainted reputation; it will remain forever in public eyes.  Recently, a new type of business that erases your public mistakes or hide your past from the web have been developing, but that will probably take another 5 to 10 years to be known and used normally on the web. Meanwhile, reputation management is one of the key factor in today’s world. Perhaps it is especially so in Japan, because teenagers today have been using social network and other communication means on the web for many years already.

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