Nothing like breaking new turf! I’ve done it many times in my work life.
In fact, I’ve preferred cutting new paths over stomping down worn ones. The cleared, predictable paths stifled adventure. I reveled in newness.
Then, along came retirement and Face Book: Family contact on the Internet.
With extra time on my hands, I began “friending” nieces and nephews. The eldest are almost my age. This means they have parented great nieces and nephews who, in turn, are birthing great-great nieces and nephews. I suddenly felt very connected to family members I would otherwise not recognize except at a family reunion.
Grateful for the opportunity to see photos of their lives, interests and new children, I c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e-d. I wrote comments that I thought were cute, clever, wise, humourous or supportive. I had included my maiden name so these younger folk would see that I was family and not some old weird voyageur.
I became a student. I observed how friends and family members communicated with each other on Face Book. I looked for purpose in the exchanges. I decided people must be terribly lonely to spend so much time throwing out “bait” that seemed pointless, purposeless and trite just to get a response from…well, anyone.
I thoroughly enjoyed substantial commentary that was witty, clever, and entertaining. However, I couldn’t ignore my shock that people responded in ways that I considered rude. Communication was morphing into a foreign language. Comments were depicting poor manners, trivial time wasters, insults, and teasers for attention. “I’m going to smack somebody.” or “Don’t know how I’ll get through the day.” Responses to this bait often depicted people frightened of possibly being a perpetrator or contributor to the person’s dilemma.
Most baffling about this new turf was the “no response” to positive postings. Was Face Book telling me that the world really does thrive on negativity, vulgarity or gossip? Where and how did I fit, I wondered.
At first my feelings were hurt when a family member didn’t acknowledge one of my comments. Over time, I learned that the more bland the comment, the more likelihood it would receive a response. Did I want to be bland?
Yah, exactly where do I fit in, I questioned?
One day, while out for a walk with one of my responsive and communicative friends, we were talking about the joys and challenge of family.
Suddenly, I experienced an “aha” download:
I may be overjoyed that Face Book offers a connection with family. However, that doesn’t mean the younger set wants to communicate with me. I am the sister of their grandparent and, in some cases, their great grandparent!
I never kept in touch with a great – or a great-great – aunt. Good grief, I don’t even have the name of one today!
I considered how often I contact my two remaining aunts – both nicely in their nineties. Maybe twice a year. And I didn’t begin calling until this past decade.
Yet I expected these young adults to accept me as though we live next door?
We’re all on this new path – young and old. Technology is bringing us a New OLD. Where and how do we dove-tail? The capability to tighten the family circle is here, but that doesn’t mean the attitude of “youth” has ramped up its desire to have the oldie-goldies hanging around.
In fact, young people are moving from Face Book according to an interview on the radio. They don’t like being “friends” with anyone who may be shocked by the company they keep; especially close family. Where are the young folk going? Tumblr, said the young man on the interview.
However, if the younger set is anything like I was at their age, they’ve gone underground with an unspoken conspiracy of secrecy.
There’s likely a sign: “ENTER ONLY BY INVITATION”.