Gemma Styles: Don't Dismiss 'Old' People On Social Media Too Quickly
The Debrief: There's a lot we can learn about social media and technology from people who are actually old enough to remember life before Facebook...
Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
How old is old? In a video posted on YouTube last weekend, AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) asked ‘millennials’ what they thought; answers ranged from somewhere between about 40-55 years old. Like most click-bait videos, shock horror, they were wrong! You should watch the video (actually made me smile a lot) but, in case you can’t right now, the gist of it is that these “old” people can do a lot more than their whippersnapper counterparts expected. Also one of the older gents is wearing a sweatshirt that says ‘San Franpsycho’ and it made me laugh. Totally worth it.
Anyway – what we learn is that older people can learn new things… and also know a load of stuff that we don’t know. It’s something I say a lot (probably too much) - you’re not going to know something if you’ve never been taught. That’s not to say you can’t also teach yourself new things, but essentially I mean there’s no embarrassment in not knowing facts, pronunciations, geography, how to make a lasagne etc., if you’ve never learned… What better example of this than the internet?
If you’d never heard of Twitter, and discovered it now, would you have the first clue what to do with it? It’s easy to say when you’ve grown up in a tech revolution, getting in on the ground floor of the social media boom, but a lot of the ability to keep up with new trends is just about having the inclination to learn it. I already feel like I’m aging out of some things on the internet at 25. To be honest, Snapchat baffled me for a while and there are new weird platforms and apps popping up every five minutes – it’s hard to keep up even when you’re interested. I’m certainly not saying that we should be getting involved with every new app on the block (someone promised me Peach was going to be massive, still waiting) but attempting to stay on top of the major ones might get us in the habit of keeping up with advances. I bet the people in that video aren’t the type to sit back and shrug 'I’m too old for this shit.'
I’m lucky to have my own mum as an example – she has two grown up children plus a (step) grandson and she’s got a firm grip on most things online (even if it isn’t always the kindest of places). Either highlighting deserving charities or just larking about being downright daft with her fabulous gang of mates, a Facebook tag is never far away – I can’t see a near future where anyone would think of her as 'old.' If she doesn’t quite get something or needs help then she’ll ask her first born (me) and I like this relationship; it feels nice that I can be useful in answering questions, at least sometimes.
I was really sad last month when one of my Twitter favourites sadly passed away; Muriel (a.k.a. @QuiltingMuriel) was '97 years young' and proudly showed off the fact that even her children weren’t on Twitter. She mastered the hashtag and delighted her 50k followers with the occasional dog meme, as well as giving her personal insights on politics and feminism – her mother was arrested while marching for the right to vote, while pushing a young Muriel in her pram.
It’s unusual for someone of Muriel’s age to be utilising social media so well. While ill health and the degeneration that can come with general aging might prevent some older people using newer technology, with its tiny touch keyboards and small screens, it does make me wonder how many older people might really enjoy social media, if only they had someone to show them how to use it. In a saturated 'millennial' market, I bet there’s a lot we could learn from those who remember what life was like before mobile phones and Wi-Fi...
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