Last week, my mother surprised me when she told me she was reading my blog. This means she googled me, like anyone in the world can. And I was surprised. Why?
tech-generation gap is shrinking
Until last week, I had the comforting lull of our generation gap to trust that I was writing for me, and maybe you. I’ve had a public blog for nearly all my adult life (the internet’s coming of age and mine coincided) and this is the first time I’ve known about her finding it. I blame Google, of course. In the days of Yahoo, altavista and metacrawler this would never have happened! It’s like one of my best friends who got a facebook friend request from his mother. At the beginning, he thought it was a fluke, some random woman with the same last name… We never expect “them”, the “grown ups”, to understand our world and join us in it. And it comes as a shock when they do. We all forget that they were young before us. And our children will forget that too. Isn’t it funny?
freedom is expression, and having an opinion
For someone who campaigns verbosely and enthusiastically about the wonders of technology, the internet, and social media, I would be a complete hypocrite if I told my mother to not read my blog. I’m glad she is. And if she ever comments, I hope it’s with an argument, and not a (very genuine, but parentally embarrassing) “well done daughter”. She is one of the reasons I always back down in arguments. President of the debate club of her university. So was my father. Needless to say I never won an argument the fair way at home… It would be fun to hear what they think about all this “internet stuff” I constantly write about.
ironically, we’re unlikely to notice our own gap
And think of this. In 15 years, or less (most of my former classmates having already spawned), a new generation will be online. They’re already out there, we just aren’t their parents. I’m from generation X. I wrote with a fountain pen, played hide and seek in the garden and submitted handwritten essays of dozens of pages without flinching. When I grew up, there was this new internet, it was wonderful, deserted, clumsy, growing. I fell in love. These kids grew up with a gaming console in their hands (thank you Nintendo, and Sony), got a mobile phone at the age of 8, and expect to find cartoons online, on demand. Writing by hand is for wimps, schools are teaching typing skills. We had 3 tv channels when I was a kid. Three. And one was black and white. I grew up with the internet and I feel I know it better than most because I saw it from its drooling years. What about the generation that arrived after it was built? What will they expect? How will they use it? Will we be the ones who lose touch with what’s “in”? Or is our generation going to continue thinking we know best and the old times were the good times? Oh-my-god, we’ll become like our parents!
older brains aren’t as flexible, they revolt to change
I think that as we age (I’m not yet 35, and starting to feel “older and wiser”) our grip on current trends loosens. Our brain is wired to hear the things it has heard before. To repeat the same mechanical tasks. Like at the first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Augurs of Spring”, a riot breaks out because our brains cannot deal with new sounds, gestures, tools. They put up a fight. (Read “Proust was a neuroscientist”, a most amazing book) It is only through repeated exposure that we can get used to these new things and grow from them. And we need to, if we do not want to remain stuck in the old, familiar, comfortable past.
challenge yourself, challenge me!
So instead of telling my mother not to use social, I’ll beg her to do so, to not be shy, to always remember that whatever is out there is permanent and public (some day my own children, if I ever have any, would be able to read this), and that if she wants to post something, she should be adding ideas to jostle all of our brains into growth. “You’re so awesome” serves no purpose, especially if it’s on the comments thread of your company’s CEO video blog. That’s what the “like” button is for, didn’t you know. Contribute, don’t stroke. Challenge, don’t agree. Help us all grow.