The digital divide isn’t always about income or age – sometimes, it’s about attitude.
When I first started playing around seriously with Social Media a few months ago – one of the things that delighted me was the number of folks I met who were over the age of 40 and yet still technologically savvy.
When I got my first account on Facebook, I was teaching. My students let me know about it, and at the time, you needed to have a University email address to sign up. Because I did, I got an account to familiarize myself with what they were doing. “Oh,” I said, “it’s pretty much like MySpace or LiveJournal, but with more of a yearbook sort of feel, eh?” They were surprised I not only knew what MySpace and LiveJournal were, but had maintained accounts at both for several years.
You see, to someone under the age of 25 in America, social media is a reality of life. Everyone knows the buzzwords. Even those without computers at home still text on their cell phones and know what IMing is and what the best sites to go find gossip about their schoolmates is. They’re linked in to the network in a way that previous generations would’ve never imagined possible.
But the older you get, the less likely someone is to have a clue what you are talking about. Sure, you say email or Internet and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who has no idea what you are talking about – but that’s about where it stops in some cases.
When I started blogging I was doing it ‘old school.’ Meaning I had a domain, some server space, and I’d type up an essay – code the HTML by hand, and FTP it up to my site. Then I’d send the half-dozen people who would maybe read it an email and a link and move on.
Over time, there was a blogger blog… then I got sucked over into LiveJournal – which reminded me more of my BBSing days in my youth, but where my age at the time made me one of the “old folks.” After awhile I discovered that I could have accounts all over the internet – from posting boards to blogging communities to social networking sites.
But it wasn’t until a few months back that I came across the term “Social Media.”
Yeah, I know, that’s not because the term wasn’t out there – it’s just a matter of not living in the Bay Area or working in those fields where I would’ve already heard it. But right away I “got” what the term meant. Because all along, I’d been swimming around in it – I just hadn’t ever thought of it as more than sort of a pleasant diversion.
Then a friend introduced me to Twitter – and as I’ve mentioned previously here, I got hooked in. But since I’ve already written all about that previously, we’ll make the assumption you’ve either read it, or can go look at it later if you’re so inclined.
What I’m finding though, is that while it’s very easy for me to explain this phenomena and my fascination with it to anyone under the age of 30… it’s nearly impossible for me to explain it to folks over the age of about 50.
That surprised me – as several of my Twitterpals are well past that age and have a better handle on it than most. Not that they are necessarily ‘technologically inclined’ so much as they are open-minded enough to have seen the possibilities and capitalize on them.
It didn’t occur to me that age could be so much of a factor in determining one’s ability to understand the appeal of this new ‘Web 2.0 frontier’ that we’re exploring.
But there’s a mental shift occurring when it comes to ‘new media’ that reminds me altogether of the revolutionary impact of rock-and-roll. Yeah, there were folks of all ages who ‘got’ what was happening with rock-and-roll when it showed up on the radios and record players all around the country. Heck, Alan Freed was in his 30’s when he was widely credited with coining the phrase rock-and-roll. You didn’t have to be a teen ager to get it.
But there’s something to be said for growing up with something versus having to adapt to it.
I, for one, plan on staying on the side of the divide that ‘gets it.’ Even if I am probably going grey under my latest dye job… Because if you want to stay young at heart, you can’t ever get old in your thinking.
~ by Lucretia on March 25, 2008.