Last month I posted an article link to a column written by Judith Warner on my Facebook page. It garnered an immediate and, if I might say, over-the-top response from someone on my “friends” list. After several replies and warnings I eventually “unfriended” this person – not because I don’t like a good argument – I do enjoy well reasoned debate – but because I don’t want to have to defend each link I post – and I do not want to get in the habit of censoring myself to avoid confrontation.
I have always enjoyed forwarding news clips and tidbits to friends and family – posting links to news items on Facebook is the digital equivalent. I may only agree with one or two salient points in the linked article – so the mere act of posting it is not an absolute reflection of my beliefs but is simply my way of saying: “Hey – I found this interesting or thought provoking and you might, too.” So why would posting a link to any article warrant a full bore attack on my Facebook page? Another Facebook friend, Wendy Davis, said it best: “The thing about these social networks are that we are putting ourselves out there. What I have been told by my kids is that we older users do not understand the nuances of the network. For example, they post lyrics etc. that I find provocative and or inappropriate. They assume that: either no one is making a judgement, or that everyone understands it is just a post. We (being boomers) seem to take it to another level. Maybe we take it too seriously.”
Perhaps it is the casualness of social media that best captures the differences between generational users. Some social media savvy Boomers “get it” – but many simply are using social media to self-promote (which quickly becomes tiresome) or sell a product or service without building an authentic community. It can be intense and serious when Boomers use social media to judge or condemn or troll for confrontation. But most of the Boomers I interact with use social media to build communities and/or reconnect with people they have lost touch with. Posting a YouTube link to an 80’s rock concert clip is just, well, typical. Scanning in photos from younger days – a gentle walk through the past. But Davis is right – most of the younger (and I’m talking about the 18 – 25 crowd) users of social media are having quick conversations in a unique social code, using it differently, less seriously and in a more random fashion.