Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ageism: Rearing Its Ugly Head in the World of Computers and the Web

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that for weeks I’ve been doing posts about do-gooder projects and I haven’t had a Scrooge post in quite a while. So be warned – today I’ve switched to my Scrooge hat.

This weekend I attended a conference at which I presented about my project Operation Support Jews in the Military. At the beginning of the conference when I couldn’t write down any information, a young woman told me she had two friends planning to be Jewish chaplains in the military. I gave her my card and requested that she contact her friends to email me.

Two days later I saw her at a time when I could write down emails. I asked if she knew her friends emails and I would contact them. (I know several simple email addresses by memory if I happen to use them frequently. I thought these two people might be good friends with whom she frequently emailed.)

She looked at me, then launched into an explanation about how she and her friends don’t use manual address books (as if I do!) and instead they keep all their info on computers (and thus she didn’t have the info).

I admit to rage coursing through me. How dare she assume that I’m computer illiterate and still use a handwritten address book! She knew nothing about me, but felt confident in her opinion that, because of my grey hair, she could patiently explain the new computer world to me.

Now I also admit I’m feeling somewhat guilty for how furious I got. And, I admit, I muttered partly to myself, “I’m sure I’m more advanced on the internet than you are.” (She didn’t seem to hear.)

In analyzing why I got so furious, I have concluded it is because this is my first experience of face-to-face ageism. Perhaps some people online think this about me (my photo with my grey hair appears with all my social networking profiles), yet no one says anything to me. And if they engage with me online they soon learn that I am very advanced in my use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, etc.

This weekend at the conference the Hasidic reggae performer Matisyahu performed at the conference. Before he sang the first number he announced that he was on Twitter. That evening I “followed” Matisyahu on Twitter, and the next day he “followed” me back.

Last night when I watched the most recent episode of the TV show NUMB3RS (from Friday night) there was a minor subplot of Charlie’s father starting on Facebook. I applauded this minor subplot showcasing that more and more “older” people are getting on this social network.

Now I’m finished with this rant – the first in a long time on this blog – and I hope this post helps young people understand that they should NOT assume older people are not computer and internet savvy. If anything, older people may have social networking strategies to share with young people.

Want to ask me questions about Twitter?

No comments: