I've been online and doing "Social Networking" for 30 years now. In fact, I was assigned my first email address at Georgia State in 1980 -- and I was given my first computer sometime in either 1981 or 1982 (Apple II). It was shortly followed by an Apple II+, Apple IIe, Apple IIc, IBM PC, IBM AT and IBM XT. It was also accompanied by an acoustic modem, which I very shortly replaced with a Hayes Apple Modem which went all of 300 baud. The day after I received the computer and set it up in the basement, I was online -- checking email and joining BBSs. My first "handle" was SchizoBlonde (yes, hard to believe, I know.) I encountered my first flame-war that year too, on the Atlanta Computer Club BBS. In 1984, I received a relatively permanent email addy firstname.lastname@example.org. I kept this email address until, well 1996 or so.
I typed my first paper in ALL CAPS in 1981 and thought that word processing was a Gift From God. I found a kludge to let the Apple II do both upper case and lower case and I was in heaven. I haven't done a paper in 30 years the old fashioned way. In fact, I don't know that ANYONE does papers the old fashioned way anymore.
I could both type and read at 300 baud -- pretty slow it was. I updated the first couple of years to a 1200 baud modem (Hayes, of course!) By the time I was married in 1986, we had an Apple Mac in the living room with a 2400 or 9600 baud modem -- and I was on several mailing lists, USENET, and several email services. Believe it or not, I met my husband online at GT's forum and we exchanged multiple emails that were unbelievably smushy. The party at which we first met was a FUG -- a Forum Users Gathering. So, you might say that I met my husband online.
In 1993-4 we had a big leap online -- the advent of the World Wide Web. I used a text based browser called "Lynks" or something like that, until I downloaded a real browser. I could get to all sorts of information! It was wonderful. Things move fast online -- by the time I had kids, people were putting up pages with dynamic content; things we might call a "blog." In 2002, I started a blog, but I suppose there just wasn't enough interest and until I hit Blogger did I become a Blogger. Now it's Second Life, Meebo, ChatRoulette, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so on and so on.
What I've learned it this: because I was exposed to computers at such an early age, all of this came easily to me. (My mom would sit me down in the front of her terminal when I was about 6 to just hit random keys and made "patterns." In later years, I played "Adventure" on the PDP-10 or 11 in 1976.) It is even easier to my kids. The technology changes and morphs; our uses do as well. There is always going to be the "flavor of the moment" -- I don't think that will ever change. What makes this generation different is the fact they EXPECT the change. They understand flavor of the minute.
It's interesting to me that "Business Computers" in our high schools are very program specific. The questions on the tests are usually something like, "What keystroke do you use to do so-and-so?" What a sham! By the time the kids learn these programs, they are already out of date. What to do instead? I don't know -- but I do know it is a different paradigm of learning for our kids. They know how silly it is to memorize keystrokes, especially seeing that the flavor of the moment is soon to change. What we need to start teaching is just "how do I pick up this program?" and "where can I go to find the answers?"
I consider myself a digital native because of the way I have almost always been surrounded by the technology. However, few of my age group are so immersed. We need to realize that what is changing are the paradigms of learning and the paradigms of information transfer. Until that happens...