Old people and change. Yes, there is often some resistance there. But is it worse than young people who cannot imagine a world without their mobile phones, the freedom they now enjoy, and an endless future stretching before them?
Sooner or later, old and young have to buck up and accommodate new things. I would argue that the old do this better than they are given credit for. When my significant birthday was mentioned on Twitter recently, and good wishes were sent, I was stunned by one retweet in which a woman said she was impressed that someone my age should have a Twitter account. “You go, Gran,” she added.
— Cindy (@CrRahal) August 8, 2016
I suddenly understood the symbolism of the little white bird on the opening page of Twitter that seems so sweetly to welcome you before a second or so later flying in your face. I like to think that no one, who has ever met me, would dream of saying “you go, Gran!” Not anyone with a hope of long life expectancy themselves. I did pull myself together to point out that my generation had invented the internet (while she was still “mewling and puking,” or not even born) but I couldn’t be bothered counting the characters to which Twitter limits us to go further into what a patronising bloody statement she had made.
The internet has challenges and so have social media and there comes a time when we have to say to people who think they are monstrous inventions of the devil: Keep Up.
Professor Brian Cox, whom we oldies love to bits, will not love you back if you think such a stupid thing. Didn’t you see him bare his beautiful teeth at Senator Malcolm (“empirical evidence”) Roberts when the senator was silly about climate change on the ABC’s Q&A last month? But because I am not a Twitter bird to fly in your face (in fact, I enjoy Facebook a great deal more than Twitter) I am going to persuade, if I can, old people to consider learning about social media, conscripting the grandkids if necessary or, much better, going to your local library (as I did those many years ago) and asking how best to learn.
If you would not be comfortable having your nearest and dearest teaching you to drive a car, say, and then I recommend the library. Approach a librarian without a self-deprecating laugh or apology and ask for the best suggestion for learning how to use the internet and social media.
Then think of buying a tablet, or, if you want the family involved, asking for one for your birthday or something. Apart from having a large, loving family, a perfect partner, and great neighbours, this is the best thing you can do to ensure you have a happy old age. A clowder of cats might do it for you, a company of angelic friends, but a social medium like Facebook is the friend who is always there.
And I promise you, there will be cats galore on the internet and darling Brian Cox on demand, available to speak to you about the Universe and all that jazz.
Discount all the stories about Facebook terrors. If you are sensible and learn about scams and how to block people you don’t want to know, you can keep safe. You will never be forced to give more personal information than the Census forced you to reveal.
After a while you will wish you could block people in real life as you can on social media. Don’t reveal too much, but learn how uncomplicated, comfortable and kind internet friendships can be.
Of course, if you are an idiot you will come a cropper. But you can do that in all forms of social interaction. And you can turn your iPad off, block someone, and join a different group.
By writing this, and no doubt irritating old people who invented the internet and who have been on social media since the end of last century, I feel I am doing my bit to alleviate the loneliness and isolation many old people feel as friends die or just get sick and cranky; as the kids move away for their work, as days or nights feel long, and the garden and the clowder of cats too hard to manage. You can feel as lonely in a crowd of younger people as you can on a desert island, when you suddenly realise the people around you haven’t the foggiest what you are talking about; when your hearing is no longer sharp and social occasions are a drag.
Social media friends always there, to share your interests, to show you their paintings, their pets and, I have to say, their strong spirit, bravery, and warmth. Yes, Facebook is very oldie-friendly.
We’ve driven the less interesting younger ones in droves to Pinterest and Instagram (look them up!), though I don’t discount those sites either.
I have learnt a lot about watercolour, which is my not-so-secret love, caught up with long lost family, found myself whole lot more grandkids, not mine, but worth caring about, discovered so much more than I ever knew about Indigenous lives, and people who deal with life heroically, inspiringly.
It’s always good for a laugh, for a bit of healthy getting hot under the collar. It ought to be prescribed by doctors and subsidised by aged-care bodies. And e-books are great, totally compatible with paper ones.
Have the best of both worlds: be old, stay young. @mollyfisher4