“I think my older students were just over the line of the divide between those who go to the Internet to find or do something and those who go to the Net to meet their friends and do the equivalent of watch TV or listen to music together.” (Thanks to Richard McManus for linking this.)
As the parent of a 17 year-old daughter, this makes sense to me. When she’s home, my daughter “hangs out online” all the time. She multi-tasks. She has multiple AIM windows open, listens to her Zen, and sometimes is also on the phone. The TV is probably on too (Disney Channel, ABC Family, TV Land, etc.) for background noise and an occasional chuckle. My experience as a parent resonates with Gardner’s comment.
This shift in how the Internet is used has great significance for our strategies for youth ministry and young adult ministry. People in their teens and twenties are hanging out online all the time. We’re working on ideas at Church of the Resurrection for how to hang out online with them and join in the theological conversation we know they’re having. For this audience, only a small part of their Internet activity is about obtaining facts (what time is the movie showing?) and accomplishing tasks (buy a ticket). It’s predominantly about friends and shared experience.