Friday, August 17, 2007

Facebook vs. the Elderly; Round One -- FIGHT!

So I was browsing Big Fat Deal, which was discussing fat hatred groups on Facebook. They referenced an article at Freydblog which was discussing hate groups aimed at the elderly. From there I found a series of articles by Paul at the Elders Tribune -- he's a 20-something who edits a blog aimed at an older audience -- on what those elder hate Facebook groups were all about.

Now, I dig Facebook. I've moved around a lot in my life, from continent to continent as well as town to town, state to state, or country to country. When I was a kid, keeping in touch meant snail mail, so of course everyone lost touch instantly as soon as someone moved away (going to an international school made this a pretty common occurrence.) Now, you surf someone up on Facebook, and voila; the years in between are just sources of anecdotes now, instead of resentment.

Mind you, I've gotten my share of pervs looking for NSA sex, or (worse?) old boyfriends or lovers finding me "by accident" or "randomly" (fancy that...) and suddenly wanting to be part of my life again. But such are the hazards of being on Teh Intarpipes. Cost of doing business.

Facebook groups tend to be no more than a source of puzzlement or amusement to me. They're online cliques without the pecking order. The vast majority of them are stupid; they're individual voices into the windstorm, desperately crying out for someone to notice them, pay attention, and validate their worth as a person. They are graffitti; they are angsty goth poetry written in a diary and left somewhere conspicuous. In other words, they're usually not worth our time.

What I found intriguing -- enough to write a probably-too-long response to Paul's articles -- was the confusion evident especially in the Freydblog article and its commenters. Why oh why, they asked, would anyone hate like this?
[I quote now from the response I wrote.]

Now, I have no deep-seated hatred of the elderly -- I get along rather well with both my surviving grandparents (each of whom lives over 3000 miles away), my parents are in their sixties, and I can socialize with their friends just fine.

But. You want to know why there is so much vitriol aimed at the elderly? Yes, I'm sure part of it is fear of the unknown, mixed up with fear of one's own mortality. (From now on I'm going to use "you" to refer to the presumably older audience of this blog, and "we/us" to refer to the generation which includes Paul and myself. This is to clarify my arguments using broad generalizations.)

For those of us without regular contact with the elderly, on the road is where most of us see you the most often. Most of you learned to drive at a time and in an environment nearly unimaginable to the average teenager or twentysomething today. Even if we exclude any mention of those elderly drivers who perhaps should no longer be on the road due to lessened faculties (I understand that in our car culture of little public transportation, driving = independence -- and that's a different issue), your priorities while behind the wheel are usually quite different from ours. In general, we value speed, you, safety. This is bound to cause resentment. Neither side can argue the other into submission, so it gets expressed via road rage.

Speaking of resentment, let's talk about finances. My generation can, all evidence to the contrary, do the math. There are a lot of you. There are not as many of us. You're all not only growing older, but staying alive past retirement at a rate unheard of in history (not blaming you, obvy; beats the alternative). But that does mean that, when we look at an older person with whom we have no personal connection, it's hard to see them as anything but a looming tax burden.

We come from a generation that has never in its adult(ish) life been able to trust or respect our government. We think the concept of privacy as an inherent right is hilarious, as we've never seen it in action. We're the ones who will be sent to war by the leaders you elect (we're well aware of who holds politicians' attention, which contributes to our voting apathy). We think about information and morality in completely different terms.

Wow, this turned into kind of a rant.

I can't solve the problem, obviously. I'd be a lot richer if I could just have the answer to societal issues.
Communication is important. Show us *why* manners and politesse are important. Remembering the violent emotions that controlled you at our age will help. Ignoring the worst of the nonsense, as you would ignore a kid's tantrum while still loving the kid, will help; eighty per cent of it is driven by a need to show off or fit in, and isn't personal.
And, er... if you're not going over 75, please don't drive in the fast lane.

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