Happy Mother’s day! You might be have a special day planned for your Mom, or, if not, today is the day you absolutely have to call her. No excuses. Yet, the obligatory phone-call might seem a little odd in this age of video-calling with Skype and always-on social updates of Facebook. Let’s not even discuss Twitter. I would guess that 99.9% of Moms have no idea what Twitter is all about. Now, don’t assume that this is sexism on my part. I’m not saying Moms can’t figure out social networking for themselves. There is no doubt that some do. And I am not saying that there are not plenty of people whose Mum has ‘friended’ them on Facebook (when will FB sort out their verbiage?) or is following them on Twitter.
Baby-boomers Divided By Digital
However, one day where the digital divide is felt most in the ‘socio’, rather than ‘economic’ sense of ‘socio-economic’ issues is Mother’s day. Today isn’t about young mums with newborns, it’s about all Moms, and that includes the Mom of your Mom, your Grandmother, who is likely to be even more cut off from online social networking. In a discussion with a great mentor of mine, Rosalind (Roz), a lady of the ripe old lady of 66, she cited the statistic that “from January 1st 2011 to December 31st 2030, over the next 19 years, ten thousand people a day will be turning 65“. She then went on to express her dismay that the baby boomer generation was, in many ways, cut off from the tech innovations of the last 10 years. She expressed frustration at the fact that after finally getting competent on her computer, figuring out web browsing and email, the latest fad for social networking was completely befuddling. And it’s not just Moms. Dads are too. The generation gap is defined by access to technology and as the web gets more 2.0 (more ‘versioned’) and mobile, screen sizes get smaller which brings their own physical limitations to the older generation. Touch screens can be too difficult to use, displays are too subtle and terminology is often obscure and not intuitive. Perfectly illustrated in this Supernews clip on Hulu:
But that is a kind of sad fact if you think about it? Most of us are continually broadcasting our thoughts, feelings, impressions, photos and locations to our entire social circle with status updates, tweets, check-ins and tagged photos. So much so, that it has virtually replaced the phone call. Yet, the person who most wants to know what you are upto and looks for the re-assurance that you are doing fine is, in most cases, the person with the least access and expertise in this digital-realm.
Without wanting to sound conceited, the idea of not being able to use Facebook or Twitter, comment on a blog or write my own post is completely alien to me. So much so, that the only way to relate to Roz’s frustrations was to watch her try to use it. I asked her to show me how she would use Facebook. Honestly, it wasn’t pretty. What I took for granted as being obvious, almost self explanatory, was just a tangle of concepts, missing buttons, distracting friend updates and a treacherous stampede across the blurred lines of publicity and privacy. In many cases, the main problem was simply that the buttons are not easy to find. And in fact, taking a critical look at the site, you can’t blame anyone for getting lost. In many cases the buttons are too subtle and there is too much going on at any one time. Often the language used to explain a feature is completely non-obvious aswell. So with that in mind, it seemed appropriate to create a basic guide on how to use Facebook.
I’m not going to get into the psychological impact of your Mom becoming your Facebook ‘friend’. All families are different and Mother’s unique, so just get familiar with Privacy Controls. However, I must assert that the reasons for writing a Mother’s Day Guide to Facebook for Momsare manifold. I’d like to invite you to join a discussion in the comments and find out if you agree? Got any ‘Mom’ social media war stories? Or do you like this new mode of connection? Who knows what kind of technology will be available in 2030? Given how much we love it now, would we want to feel isolated from our kids in 20 years simply because interfaces were not designed with silver surfers in mind? That being well, if your Mother starts ‘friending’ you and everyone else on Facebook, commenting on all your drunken party pics, contacting your exes, uploading photos of you as a baby or embarrassing you with their own status updates, feel free to start a flame war in the comments.