Sigh. Yet another example of ageism has reared its ugly head in my world and this time it’s personal!! Social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter, LinkedIn, are being invaded by, OMG, SENIORS! Can the implosion of our world as our kids know it be far behind?
I’m shaking my head at this latest twist of ageism, mostly because it’s just so silly for any age group to think they have a corner on any aspect of life – including social networking. And I’m shaking my head because this whole issue is just so incredibly blatant.
Bulletin to anyone under 50 – you are NOT alone. You do NOT have exclusive rights to social media sites. Get over your ice-flow mentality because we will not be sent to sea quietly!
AARP, the American Association of Retired People, interviewed 1,360 adults and found that more than a quarter (27%) of Americans age 50 and older use social networks. Facebook is the most popular — in fact, 23% of all survey respondents said they preferred it to sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter.
When it comes to general web surfing, 49% of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64 and 40% of all adults age 50 and older said they consider themselves extremely or very comfortable using the Internet. In other words, we’re very close to seeing the majority of senior citizens embracing the web as a content medium and communication tool.
And I say, “Yeah, so what’s your point?” Why is this even a news topic?
Imagine my shock then to discover that on Facebook there are groups such as “Help – My Dad’s on Facebook” where like-minded people can post their thoughts about such an unpleasant turn of events in their social networking lives. Comments include “I was weirded out when mine joined,” and “My dad isn’t on Facebook and I intend to keep it that way.” Come on kids, lose some of that rigidity, expand your vista a bit, open your eyes and look around you! The thing is this, these are not just teens making these comments; judging from their photos, the group includes people in their 30s (and beyond?) too.
A saving grace is that not everyone on Facebook is so blatantly ageist, “at first it was hard to accept and then I thought it was kinda cool.” OK, good, maybe we’re making some progress here. My own daughters, women in their 30’s, seem to be accepting of me being there. In fact, I had to urge one of them to join up. I do resist the urge to comment on every single post they make and I’m sure they’re eternally grateful for that. They may even wince at some of my comments, but they’re bright and perceptive and accepting enough to not ‘unfriend’ me. Note to kids – good move!
So, my whole point with this example of ageism is that I think we still have a lot of work to do to reduce this prejudice. We need to talk to our kids, to anyone we know under 50, and let them know that we’re here and we’re here in huge numbers. More importantly, we need to let them know that ageism is just as offensive and intolerable as any other prejudice. We need to let them know that a culture that reveres older people is a culture that benefits from the wisdom of experience.
We boomers are redefining life after 50 and we’re doing it in leaps and bounds. Because we’re such a large group, we’re changing the face of older people permanently. And because we’re not retiring to the rocking chair, we’re setting a wonderful example to everyone who follows that life goes on as long as we’re interested in pursuing new horizons, and we plan to nurture and grow our interest in life for years to come.
Move over kids; you have to share the sandbox! And you have to share nice!
Because this is Where We’re Going and I’m just getting started.
© Marcia Barhydt, 2011