Things have changed. No longer are our personal lives
limited by distance, time, or space. This is the world of Generation Y.
Society is so greatly affected by the emergence of digital communication
that it has changed the basic way humans interact.

Face-to-face meetings aren't necessary; since the birth of text
messages and email the proliferation of oral conversations has
begun to fail in the face of instantly transmitted written word.

So what's the impact on digital natives? That's what we're looking at in this class project examining millennial relationships: the Blurred Lines between our social life and our online personas, the many ways we’re Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, the Naked Issues of sexting and porn, the Digital Judgment that we find online, all the way to The Future of online communication.

Be part of the conversation.


We find ourselves interacting through technology, rather than involving ourselves with the physical presence of other people.

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Blurred Lines

Cellphones have been around for over 25 years now in various forms, but it wasn’t until the new millennium that they found regular use as a communication tool for personal use. Shortly after came the advent of texting, allowing for the instantaneous messaging of any person within our circle of friends and acquaintances. Of course, one glance when in a busy area and one can see the major effect cellphone usage has had on society – people walk through crowds, their heads bowed down at the handheld device, ignoring the many people physically around them for those who are digitally estranged.

In the world of avatars we can choose who we are, what we want to look like, and how we act. However, our cyber-selves are still affected by how we view our actual-selves. Certain personality factors like self-confidence or uniqueness can affect how we represent ourselves in a virtual world. For instance, introverts are more likely to build attractive characters. A high amount of social openness increases the likeliness that you would experiment with skin tones. And, in general, both males and females gravitate towards making characters “consistent with the ideal male and female bodies.” There is also evidence to suggest that emotional and personal relationships between avatars can be just as gratifying as real life relationships–aside from the fact you can’t touch each other.

Video games began in arcades, where people would gather together to play, but by the 1980s, they were available in the home, and the vast majority was catered towards single players. Those that allowed for multiple players were limited to the number of controller inputs, and required the gamers to gather together in front of one television. It wasn’t until the dawn of the Internet that it became feasible to play a game with someone across the world, connecting people through an entirely new medium. But again, we find ourselves interacting through technology using avatars, rather than involving ourselves with the physical presence of other people.

As we push ourselves away from personal relationships to favour impersonal ones using avatars, are we inadvertently growing more distant from those most physically close to us? For some people, it’s hard to get away from  social networks, especially with the constant presence of an Internet-enabled cellphone. The urge to stay connected to the online world can draw people away from those around them. We talked with Jessica, a heavy social media user, about addiction and the way it impacts her life.

Fake Facebook Chat

Source: Comscore

Collecting Outside The Monkeysphere

In 1992, Robert Dunbar, a British Anthropologist, proposed the theory that there is a finite limit on the number of relationships the human brain can handle, with the number close to 150 people. Beyond this number, people stop being important, regardless of whether they impact our lives. For the same reason that our brains cannot fully comprehend the thought of six-million people, we will laugh at a person being hurt in a YouTube video when we would have panicked if it happened right before us. The lack of connection with the poor kid who smacks his crotch on a low wall is because he or she is outside of our personal bubble – termed by Cracked.com writer David Wong as “The Monkeysphere” – and so we don’t really feel much (or any) compassion.

If people can only care about a limited number of others, how does this reconcile with the ~510 friends the average 18-24 year-old Facebook user claims to have? Clearly these numbers don’t match up, and the answer is simple – most of these “friends” are people the Facebook user doesn’t know nor care about. Perhaps they briefly met them once at a party or gathering, but there is no real connection to them.

The main objective for social media sites like Facebook or Twitter has always been to keep users connected.  New technology allows us to communicate through our devices at the click of a button.  Some have said this technology creates a false sense of connectivity. Are our devices really distracting us from engaging with the real world? Let’s hear what the experts have to say in the video below:

Although there is lots of evidence that online relationships can be meaningful, if we dig a little deeper, humans are lonely as ever. In person social skills are diminishing due to us constantly connecting through technology and social media. This video explains how humans rely heavily on technology to hold conversations, and the more we “connect” the less we interact, which leads to anxiety issues and loneliness.

Social networks provide an impressive platform which allow us to take part in online relationships, communication, and sharing personal information. Instead of intimate and in person conversations, we are instead choosing to share images and text our friends simply because it is easier. We are sacrificing communication for connection.

In conclusion, we use technology every day to share feelings as we experience them. So although you can experience real emotion and live part of your life online, we have to realize that constant communication through social media and technology deteriorates social skills. Sometimes it’s good to go old school and knock on someone’s door.

Looking for Love

Gen Ys are the first generation to grow up with the Internet. We have taken this technology and claimed it as our own. The Internet has changed the face of many standard practices from banking to shopping and now even dating. No longer does one need to search high and low for that special someone, because thanks to the Internet that special someone may be accessible with the click of a button.

A space as vast as the World Wide Web definitely offers something or someone for everybody. It’s a place where sub-cultures are born, and communities of like-minds and qualities can congregate frequently, while living thousands of kilometers away. With the selection ranging from match.com to benaughty.com to christianmingle.com the opportunity to meet an online companion is very high.

The Internet may seem like a scary place for some, but we are digital natives shaping the web to fulfill our needs. If you’re young and looking for love, online dating is a great way to connect to more potential partners than you would likely meet in the real world. Reporter Nicole Leckie sat down with Jenn Toth and Dion Rodriguez to get a first hand account from a couple that started a relationship online and will end up walking down the aisle.

With the digital age we live in it is no surprise that young people are increasingly using the Internet to find that special someone. A recent Pew Research study uncovered that people aged 18 to 30 are more likely to use online dating than other demographics. The Internet offers an almost unlimited number of sites where you can look for that special someone. Gone are the days of traditional courtship because whether you are looking for a simple hook up or a nice Christian boy or girl to take home to mom or dad, there are plenty of online dating sites that will help you accomplish your goal.  A 2009 Forbes article used Nielsen’s (an audience tracking firm) unique-visitor data to size up cyber love. Take a look:

My Infographic (15)

Millennials have digitalized the dating scene using social media and online dating sites to connect without commitment. Simply put, technology makes it easier for us to test the waters without diving in headfirst. Reporter Nicole Leckie spoke to dating expert and editor in chief of Eligible magazine, Gary Wilson, to get the inside scoop on why online dating is a good option for those who are looking for love.

We’ve seen the good; now let’s take a look at the bad. You have to be careful you’re not looking for love in all the wrong places…

In all the wrong places

Users beware because the Internet has a level of anonymity that has never been seen before. With the Internet you can be whoever you’d like to be. A phenomenon that now has its own name – ‘catfish’. Joan from Oakville may actually be John from Oakland and the Internet helps him keep his true identity under wraps.

We’re not so naïve to think the online dating world is only sunshine and roses. So if you’re looking to find love online you may want to pay attention as reporter Nicole Leckie chats with people who have experienced looking for love in all the wrong places.

Body language and eye contact are two easy ways to detect a liar.  But what happens when you don’t have the luxury of a face-to-face conversation?  In an online relationship it’s a challenge to separate the truth from the lies.  In a lot of cases the Internet allows for a user to be completely anonymous, and if not completely anonymous it’s certainly easy to fudge the truth. What are some of the most common things people admittedly lie about online? Check out this infographic to find out.

In every facet of life we experience positives, but we also have the negatives to deal with as well, and the Internet is no exception. Sure the Internet gives us an outlet to communicate and collaborate with others around the globe. But users always need to be aware of the dangers. Surf at your own risk.

Sexting Facts

  • 30-40% of people admit to sexting.

    Survada.com survey
  • 20% of snapchat users send sexual photos.

    Sextech Survey
  • 10% of people on dating sites are sex offenders.


Naked Issues

Forget the free loving 60s! There’s a new digital sexual revolution and millenials are at the forefront of it. A generation ago, a teenaged boy’s (and girl’s) only way to view adult images was the Victoria Secret catalogue or the Playboy hidden underneath his bed. The Internet has very quickly changed the way that the world accesses pornography and made it available 24/7 for free.

In 2009 scientists at the University of Montreal set out to study men in their 20s that had never been exposed to pornography. Unfortunately they ran into an unforeseen obstacle—they weren’t able to find a single subject to study because everyone contacted had seen some kind of porn. Researchers decided to alter their objective and take a look at the impact of pornography on the sexuality of men. What they found was that the demonization of watching pornography is completely unfounded and that pornography is a normal rite of passage in a young boy’s life.

As digital natives we were the first generation to grow up with such instantaneous access to pornography.  It’s so common that most of us don’t really see an issue.  More recently, with the increase of social media websites literally any one can be a porn star.  Exhibitionists around the world are able to unite and all they really need is a webcam.

But who is watching? And better yet why? The answer to those questions may shock you.

Take a look at the infographic below to see just how much we all love us some porn:


And it’s not just your everyday porn that’s easily accessible, the Internet allows people with some very particular fetishes to gather en masse. So don’t worry about the guilty pleasure of yours that you may have thought was a bit perverse. The vast array of content available on the Internet will prove to you that there truly is something for everybody.

And how about the phenomenon of sexting?

In 2011 ‘sexting’ was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary.

Oxford defines ‘sexting’ as:

Sexting (noun, informal): The sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone 

We’ve all heard a sexting horror story or two.  When something meant to be private ends up oh so public.  It’s risky behavior and you’d think after hearing all these cautionary tales we’d learn our lesson right? Wrong.

The stats don’t lie.  Check out this infographic to see how many of us are just fine with with letting it all hang out online.
Source: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

Say the word sexting to a millennial and no doubt you’ll get a ton of reaction. Just ask reporter Nathanael Taylor who spoke with some students about this sexy pastime. It may seem like harmless fun, but what happens when sexting goes wrong? Can you be held accountable for sharing intimate images? Or even arrested? Let’s watch while he gets the scoop on this racy trend.

Like it or not this is the time we live in and it is not uncommon for young people to share sexy messages or photos with the assumption that they will remain private–but sharing is easy when you’re a digital native.

Recently eight teen boys from Laval, Quebec were charged with child porn related offences after sharing lewd photos of teenage girls that were sent using the popular app Snapchat.

FYI: How Cyber-bullying legislation will impact sexting

In response to a number of high profile cyber-bullying cases, like Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, the Canadian government has tabled a bill that calls for new measures to protect Canadians from the “unlawful distribution of intimate images.” The deaths of the young girls prompted public outrage and government officials were quick to act.

According to Bill C-13 (or its more formal name Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act) an intimate image is one that “depicts a person engaged in explicit sexual activity or that depicts a sexual organ, anal region or breast.”

In layman’s terms, sharing that nude photo you received from a special someone with a friend—without consent from the sender—would be illegal and the distributor could face severe penalties.

Distributors of intimate images could face up to five years in prison. And if the involved party happens to be underage it may lead to child pornography charges, which carry much more severe penalties.

If the bill becomes a law it would give law enforcement more power to seize computers and phones used in an alleged crime. However, critics of the new bill are raising alarm bells over how the legislation could be used to invade privacy. Click here if you want more info on why they’re worried.

No matter what you think of the bill, you might want to think twice before sending or sharing intimate images because the consequences may be disastrous. (And don’t forget to clear your browsing history.)

Secrets you can’t keep

There is a major difference between human beings keeping secrets and websites keeping secrets. What people don’t seem to realize is once you sign up and agree to join social media sites, you are automatically giving permission to access your photos and whatever else you choose to share. So if you thought you were just uploading a few pictures from your wild vacation in Jamaica and expecting only your Facebook friends to see it, think again.

When it comes to agreeing to the terms of service on social media sites, almost everyone will admit they don’t read them. We have all seen the extremely long window that outlines what you give for what you get, but how many people really know what they’re giving away in exchange for free communication? Whether you’re sharing videos on YouTube, posting pictures on Facebook, or simply sending out a tweet on Twitter, the information you choose to share could have a life of its own—and you’re likely sharing information you aren’t aware of.

Here are five social media agreements you might be choosing to ignore.


1. By agreeing to these terms of service you authorize us to have access to your data and to perform our duties in providing services to you as agreed.

This is probably the most common term in many agreements, but it’s still surprising nonetheless. YouTube is granted full access to your information, meaning whenever they want to they can grab whatever they want off your personal data and showcase it via their web site.


2. When you use our services or view content provided by Google, we may automatically collect and store certain information in server logs” 

▪   In Google’s Privacy Policy, it states that under server logs they can hold some important information, such as:

▪   Details of how you used our service, such as your search queries.

▪   Telephony log information like your phone number, calling-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls.

▪   Internet Protocol Access

▪   Device event information such as crashes, system activity, hardware settings, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and referral URL.

•   Cookies that may uniquely identify your browser or your Google Account.

Not only does Google have the right to hold this info, it also has complete access to your location as well. If your mobile device has a GPS service on, Google can process the signals sent out, therefore tracking where you are. If that wasn’t enough, they can also access your mobile device using other technologies to determine location by sending out sensor signals to inform you and provide information on nearby Wi-Fi locations and cell towers.


3. By owning a Facebook account, you’re allowing the company to use your posts and other personal data for advertising.

This one has been in the news for some time. Facebook has recently updated its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities which states that it can use someone’s profile data, including their profile picture, name, and personal information, and this could show up as part of a Facebook ad friends may see on the site. This information is not new, but Facebook spelled it out in more detail for the first time.


4. We can use your ads and related content and information for marketing or promotional purposes.


Related to #3, it differs in the sense that Facebook can use your personal information to its own benefit, in this case, marketing. Instead of using photos on Facebook, the company also has the right to use your photos in other promotional ads. Facebook also recently paid 20 million dollars to settle a suit related to privacy. The proposed settlement class included roughly 150 million Facebook users, whose names or likenesses were allegedly misappropriated to promote those products and services.


5. Google: The same boat as Facebook

Formula one racer Max Mosely sued Google recently, because they chose to run private images of him. Google said it will appeal the ruling and has already attempted to remove many of the images from their search engines. Just a few days ago Google paid 17 million dollars to settle an investigation by 37 US states into its use of unauthorized tracking software on Apple Safari Web browsers. So what does this mean for users? Well pretty much, Google got caught with its pants down and now opted to pay up in order to try and gain people’s trust. However, in its updated privacy agreement, it still states that if you sign up for Google, it can still use pictures or personal information. The issue here was that Google did not let users know it was using the public’s information as they surfed the net, which was not in its terms of agreement. So to put it simply, Google can use your information on the Internet, but will no longer be using unauthorized tracking browsers. Good riddance.


So how easy is it to find information about YOU, based on what YOU share?

During our research, one student in our program signed up for Plenty of Fish. She began by searching people in her area, and beginning to look at a few profiles.

Disappointed with the limited amount of information given by each individual in his profile, as a team we came together to find out some more information on these gentlemen.

With only his first name, “Bob” (not his real one), and a general location, “Burlington,” in just a few simple clicks we were able to find his private Facebook page & the golf association he works at. With a few more clicks, we found the individual was friends of a friend of one of us. This way we were able to gain lots of information about him, including where he went to high school and lots of his pictures. As the saying goes, it’s a small world.

Another example, was a different guy who’s public Facebook we found by copying his Plenty of Fish photograph and reverse searching it on Google. We were able to match it to his current Facebook page, which was public. And then we learned all about him too.In both cases, we were able to find much more detailed information on these potential suitors without their knowledge. Another reminder to be careful what you put out there, because you never know who’s digging deeper.

Digital Judgment

With the rise of the Internet, a new form of anonymity has been granted to every person, but with it comes judgment. Private messages, hidden comments, and the ability to avoid face-to-face confrontation have given birth to a new form of bully, who doesn’t just cause chaos for his or her victim, but does so whilst guarded behind a computer screen.

Most bullying takes place within organized structures such as schools or workplaces, and is vastly prevalent amongst the younger generation. This hasn’t changed since before the age of online interaction, but what is different are the methods used, and the inescapable situation many find themselves in. Through social media, bullies now have access to their victims 24/7, causing alienation even within what was formerly private time. In addition to this, the majority of bullies and their victims online are female, using verbal methods and peer exclusion, compared to male bullies who tend to be more physical and violent, facing down victims in person. The Internet and social media opened up this possibility, with no sure way to stop it.

One problem is that online actions can be done under the guise of anonymity. Although an investigation could turn up the originator of a comment made online, there is no guarantee. The anonymity given by the Internet comes with some great powers, including more freedom for whistleblowers, but it also brings with it the problem that people can offend and hurt others without consequences. However, the Internet itself judges people. Websites designed to allow judgment allow people to upload their own photos and gain criticism. Advertisements bombard those without an effective ad-blocker, pushing a desired body image onto both men and women. It’s a problem without a solution; as to remove the anonymity and freedom of the Internet would be to tarnish part of what makes it great.

What are the consequences of freely accessible anonymousness? Should restrictions be in place to stop negative experiences, or is our freedom to experience the unfettered nature of the online world something worth protecting? Does the Internet reveal the horrible truth of who we can really be?

Take our poll and let us know

The Future

As a group of journalism students, when we look at the future we can’t help but wonder if we will be able to find work and what those jobs might look like. We live in a world where technology has made it increasingly more convenient for anyone to play the role of a journalist. That is why many feel journalism, specifically journalism print, is a dying industry. A chart in Searchlights and Sunglasses shows how newspaper consumption rates have drastically decreased from 1950 to now. Each and every year the chart shows the decline in an almost straight line, with the same downward slope for 70 years. It goes on to predict that by year 2020, 0.2% of households will get a newspaper. You may think that’s an alarming statistic, and it is, but this is really a case of one door closing and another opening. And here is why.

Consumption of digital news is soaring. Think about the long and complicated process that’s involved in making newspapers and delivering them to people, compared to how easy it is for someone to wake up, sit down at their computer and look at what’s trending on Twitter. Even better and more convenient, someone can reach for his or her phone in bed and search what is happening in today’s news. The truth is the energy eating, time-consuming industrial newspaper process takes so long that by the time the thing finally gets to your door, the news can be as dead as the trees it was printed on. Someone tweeted it yesterday. It’s old news. And who wants old news? Not Gen Ys.

The demand for instant information is only going to increase. The info-graphic below shows how cell phone subscription rates will nearly double in the next five years.



And what about the future in general? TNW–The Next Web—asked six experts their opinions on the future of communication and our need to be constantly linked in. Jonathan McDonald weighed in on the future of technology and discussed how it has evolved. He used the example of an African drum, one of the early forms of technology, to offer this interesting comparison: Alternatively, we may stop to consider the fact that our modern, cutting edge communication tools and platforms, are actually under-developed in comparison to African drums from many, many centuries ago.

David Lemereis wrote about touch screens on tablets, phones, and mini computers. He says touch screens are making us write less because we can interact with a simple gesture: It’s amazing. In only a few years touchscreens in our smartphones and tablets drastically changed the way we interact with humans and machines. In the next few years we’ll see an explosion of touchscreens invading every part of our lives; from the bathroom mirror, to the touchscreen table and even the possibility to interact with your living-room touch window.”

The third expert, Lone Frank, offered a completely different approach. She spoke about how moods can be affected by technology. For example, she says dreams may be modified by the use of technology, so instead of waking up from a bad dream and starting off your day in a negative state of mind, technology could offer some sort of dream modifier which allows the individual to change his or her mood to positive emotion.

David Nieborg wrote about how campaigns and advertising are using technology to attract users. He also went on to describe how political campaigns are using technology to mobilize voters. “Collecting money is increasingly done using innovative technologies. From email campaigns to texting, and from Facebook to Pinterest, modern day campaigns are very much run like tech start-ups by bright, skilled minds who are able to connect to more voters 24/7.”

Alex Arnbak discussed how technology has allowed many to interact via emails and messaging rather than writing letters or sending post cards. He goes on to write about how Internet protocols are the “blood veins of any communication via the web.” And explains that while communication via technology is convenient, we must remember that privacy and security are issues because of the easily accessed information shared through technology and social media.

Finally, Aral Balkan simply states that the future of technology is already here but we are “limited in having continuous access to these mechanisms of communication.” He feels the next revolution of technology could be “always-on, always-broadband communication”.

In conclusion...

You’ve read the stats. You’ve seen the interviews. You’ve even been a part of the conversation. This is the online world viewed through the eyes of digital natives. We shop online; we live online; and, yes, we even love online. No doubt about it things will continue to change, because millennials are all about living in the now. Is it for the best? We’d like to think so. But as technology evolves we can only imagine what we’ll see next.


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