The Social Network Age Gap

There was an interesting article (Youngsters Not Happy Oldies Going Online) about the younger folk not really liking the fact that the older crowd is online, using social networks, and most importantly (to the youngsters anyway) sending them friend requests. The article mainly focuses on the younger people who use MySpace and Facebook to talk about and show photos of their elicit activities, not really wanting to accept their parents friend request on either social network. The article goes into several examples of students accepting their parents and some not because “its not cool” but it also points out parents might want to back off. The article does a fairly decent job of not saying what is right or wrong and how these younger folk should respond, but I think it completely ignores a point that shows why more of the older generation is getting online.

Let us look at this a little more closely. I have been on computers since I was 5 years old. I really got into them at 15. Between the ages of 5 and 15, I really just used the computer to play games and write documents. When I turned 15 and Compuserve got access to the world wide web (WWW), I was completely hooked. These days I work as an IT consultant, doing programming, setting up servers and databases, and doing assessments for my clients. So I stuck with it. The generation before mine, saw computers as nothing more than tools, sure some saw them as fun and hackable, but the population at large only really used them for writing stuff, performing calculations, and so forth. As their children got older and were surrounded by technology they became the computer using folk they are today. However, just like me, they are close to or right at 30 years of age now. Chances are that these former children have children of their own. So what does a generation of computer users do as they get older? They continue to use computers. Some move on and only use computers for games, documents, and the occasional media (music or movies). Several of them though, made careers out of the little boxes with screens and are up on the latest and greatest in computers, including social networks, hot websites, and even Linux.

What does that all mean to the generation after mine? Well, it means that when my daughter gets old enough to have a computer in her room with internet access, she’ll know that “daddy” plays on computers too. Will that mean that she won’t go onto the social networks, post incriminating photos of herself doing the things that teenagers and new college students do? Probably not, in fact she’ll probably do it before most of her friends. Does that mean I’m going to spy on her MySpace just to make sure? Not really. But the kids today have to realize that it was those adults they are so weirded out by that made the internet what it is today. It is because of those adults that the internet became more than just a fad, it became a tool. The natural momentum just means that we kept up with it all. Not everyone mind you but a good number of us. I’m 28 now and have been using the internet in some form for around 14 years. I had BBS (bulletin board system) accounts where I talked to others in my city and from around the country on a nightly basis. It was through them I learned about IRC (Internet Relay Chat), that was before I got on Compuserve and discovered the big WWW. For me this is all a progression of what I have been doing since I was a teenager myself. Will my daughter understand that? More than likely. Will she like it that daddy knows more about computers than she does? Probably not.

I think that most kids these days and those that are on their way to being teenagers in the next 8-10 years should realize now that mommy and daddy know about and use the internet quite frequently. In fact, several parents are going to be quite adept at using the internet, and really you just need to deal. We will be on your social networks, we’ll be on your IM list, and we’ll Twitter you when you’re out on your first date. That just comes with the territory of being a part of the generation to come after mine.

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