The New “OLD”

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.

A little heart glue will fix it right up.

A little heart glue will fix it right up.

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”.

52 thoughts on “The New “OLD”

  1. This reminded me of when my BFF and I joined Facebook. Her daughter’s comment? “Why do you two have to be on Facebook? Can’t you just knit or something like other moms do?” We had a goog giggle about that.

    • That’s how I started FB, as well, Kate, but then I heard “family talk” about baby pictures, upcoming weddings and travels. I dived in – and thoroughly love seeing the family grow.

    • It is indeed, Anna. It’ll be interesting to see what parents have to live with when their babies grow up and take a look at their parent’s younger days. There’s a blog mom who writes humour about the daily lives of her two teen daughters. If I was one of those daughters, I’d ask her to stop. But the blog gets many comments so I guess it like reality TV on the Blogosphere. Does “reality” viewing help people feel closer to “normal”?

      • hmmm, Amy if I had a clue what normal looked like I might be able to offer an answer 😉
        I personally keep my daughter off the blog except a bit of this or that.
        My husband just became a grandfather and the pictures of the new babe and an umbilical cord shaped into a heart were on the facebook before the day was out…in my world, that is not normal. But I am pretty old fashioned.

        • There’s been a lot of discussion around this subject with friends – of various ages – who share the confusion spoken by so many. I’m amazed how many people are experiencing a gamut of emotion around FB. A number of people say they simply don’t comment. They back away, they say. As a student of psychology, I would love to know about the people who use FB. Are they extroverts? Are the sarcastic people the introverts who never say boo in person? Is it lazy communicators who endlessly post “share” photos, jokes, quotes, etc?

          My great or grand nieces have had no qualms about sharing photos of their baby bump. I haven’t seen a heart shaped umbilical cord…yet!? But, Anna, I was left behind when I discovered that teens entertain their friends, male and female, in their bedrooms and have boy/girlfriend sleep overs. I know – Sweden has been living like that for generations, but friends younger than me say even though they’ve accepted this with kids/grandkids, it wasn’t easy.

          Maybe I’ll apply to Face Book to do a big study! That would be fun!

    • I’ve heard other moms say the same thing, Diana. It must be really hard for parents to suddenly feel out of the loop. When I think how I just expected Mom to be happy having all the alone time in the world! She never wanted to influence my siblings or me ‘getting on with life’. However, I feel a little negligent now.

  2. I think the whole FB – social networking thing – can be ackward with the mix of family, off-line friends, and on-line acquantances. Somehow, it doesn’t quite come together.

    Also, I think you’ve hit the generational thing on the head. Perfectly. Well, why would this generation be any different than ours. Remember those days when no one had a last name and it seemed that everyone in high school was parentless?

    LOL! You old lady you! 🙂 Just kidding …

    Be well, Amy.

    • That does sound funny! 🙂 It’s not a concept I’ve grasped yet…but, Jamie, I don’t want the pill to be offered by someone who cannot conceive of the feeling around swallowing the damned thing.

  3. Hmm…tried that Facebook thing…go contacted by old friends, new friends, and people who wanted friends…decided it wasn’t my style so left Facebook…with a smile on my face. 🙂

  4. Perhaps because of my lifelong work with the elderly, I’ve never “felt” a division between generations (though I do now). Perhaps it was my up-bringing, being raised my very early years with my grandparents because of my dad’s death in WWII that this was the case. And perhaps that early connection is what led me to work with the elderly. Because I have no children and only have one niece who has two teenagers, I just don’t have kids in my life. And I miss that. That’s why being a museum docent was such a source of satisfaction–introducing little ones to the wonders of art. But I ramble…old lady that I am. :0)

    • I thought about people being old when I was growing up, but I felt comfortable around the elderly. I liked their genuine interest and loved that they had time. Those folk taught me a great deal about being older. Mom and Dad included. I suspect I find it hard being the elder…that role was always in another person’s hands.

  5. What a great insight! And so true. I’m not much of a communicator on Face Book. I primarily have it just to circulate my blog a little more and, also, to check in once in a while on my family — much as you did. But I rarely post comments. I’m more likely to ‘like’ or ‘share’ something than I am to comment. Funny, but I never thought about it until reading your comments. Thanks!

    • That’s an interesting response, Kathy – you’re such a faithful responder on blogs. I’m finding it quite interesting to learn how people “operate” on FB. I think I’d enjoy doing a study of this…

  6. Yes, I know what you mean Amy… I realised the other day that I still feel deeply connected to my grandchildren and expect to discuss things the way we did when they were little… but why would they want to with their grannie!
    I also realised that though I don’t feel old – other people think I am !!!!!
    Takes a bit of adjusting !!! I can see that as we grow older, we’re expected to become observers, rather than participants, blow it !!!

    • “Blow it” describes my feelings to a “t”, Valerie. And I find myself cultivating ways of confirming my place in this world – without being silly about it. EG – today I went into the Kayak shop to find out if they’d have a trip next weekend. I’m keeping my eye on a blogger’s son while she is writing a biography in Patagonia. The young man is very outdoorsy and self-reliant, but I wanted to line up some activity that he’d not normally experience high in the mountains of Wyoming. He’s attending University in my part of the world.

      Anyway, the young folk began reassuring me of the fellow’s safety doing a paddle out to an island in the harbour. I said, “It’s okay…I’ve paddled out there. Since it’s no big deal for me, I know he can handle it without a problem.” They looked shocked. That shocks me!! Little stinkers… 🙂

      Also, I want to add that, in my family, the grandchildren were very prone to going to grandma. They confided in her a lot. They loved my mother’s wisdom. So don’t go too far the other way and assume they wouldn’t confide in you. Grandmas are much more in demand than great aunts!

        • This has uncovered a very tender situation, methinks, Valerie. I think many have felt they are alone in their attempts to understand how to deal with a blast of information that holds so little relationship.

  7. This post is so much of what I’ve felt about social networking. I still can’t accept the whole idea of it. I’m pretty flexible about changes in this modern era but this one doesn’t seem to fit in with me. I remember seeing my grandmother and great-grandmother and being filled with joy and emotion. Now, they are texting on their phones while you visiting with them. UGH … rejection to the max. I hear Twitter is the new FB. I’m not going there unlesss forced.
    Great one …. thanks, Amy for making me feel like I’m not alone.

    • I must admit, Isadora, that you are the first I’ve heard who is feeling the “rejection” of a techno-clad granny! Wow. That would bite. Gosh, we’re an addictive bunch!

  8. Funny……as connected as I am to folks via this medium, FB isn’t one of the options I’ve chosen to implement. Fact is, I’ve steered AS far away from it as I can. My whole impression of the FB system isn’t ‘good’. It’s proven to not be a ‘model’ that promotes relationships–though it does promote information sharing.
    I’m more about the relationship, being a relationship kinda gal. And I’m not so much about sharing information. Feelings/thinking, yes….information, no.
    I’m kinda funny that way, huh?

    No. I don’t have a FB account. And no, I don’t send links to friends/family to join me on the web log. That’s not what the purpose of the web log was, eons ago. If they land there–nonissue. Heck, even he-who-landed-there had no desire to stay there. LOL It’s a wandering MESS of stuff from my brain, readings and gems that I wanna hold on to– and pretties from the camera that I like to look at. It’s evolved into a bit of a hub where folks can touch base with me. But relationship wise–that happens more on other folk’s place than on mine. Strangely true..true nonetheless.
    There’s a generational thing in the medium just as there is in the culture–undoubtedly classic developmental stuff. People want to exercise their seperate-ness from their parent/family and ‘come into their own’. Just as my parent didn’t go tracking my every move (though it would be easier in this medium!), neither do I feel a need to do that. I don’t wanna. From where I sit, it feels invasive and silly to be attached in that manner when I’m ‘the mom’.

    Interestingly enough–when the girl sailed around the world the wrong way, she kept a web log from the sail boat. I cringed at some of the comments left for her from her buddies. I was reading only. And THEN(because they all KNOW me…LOL) I signed in as “The Mom” and left her a comment of my own. Ohhhhhhhhhh how the comments on the web log took an entirely different twist from that point on. That’s the power of a relationship, even in this medium.
    The little boogers. LOLOL

    • Mel! Are you saying that the CBC radio program (Ideas) I just listened to – about people sailing around the world – included YOUR daughter? One woman has done it AND she went the “wrong” way around – that was your daughter?!! What a story. What courage. Is she the Bug’s mom?

      Yes, I bet there was a shift in tone when folks realized Mom was present. I like that positive, realigning, think-twice kind of power. Mama Bear roars and the forest pays attention!

      You’ve expressed my thoughts exactly…information versus relationship. Feeling the relationship slipping to make room for cute, clever, witty or hurtful doesn’t cut it for me.

      I just talked on the phone to my niece Wendy who has commented here. We commiserated over the propensity for people to be sarcastic. What on earth is that about? Well, sarcasm is a major, but negative bid for control! However, both of us love the opportunity to see the progress and growth of the families in our expanding circle of relatives.

      Have I told you lately, Mel, that I thoroughly appreciate your clarity and wisdom? And I so appreciate what you see through the magical lens of your soul!

      Addendum: I feel so sad over young people having to live the effects of “helicopter family members”!

  9. This is an interesting post. Like you, I’ve been having a few aha moments lately. I honestly forget my age. Things like people waiting for me to go through a doorway ahead of them stand me on my head. Facebook is a great big, interesting phenomenon. I can’t think of any form of communication that is more inclusive, more immediate, more dangerous, more puzzling. I enjoy it for the social experiment it is. I connected with a lot of high school friends that I’d written out of my life. I’m glad I did that, although I do get annoyed by some of the drivel, particularly the stupid “remember when” posts that seem so age focused. I’ve tried to curb my commenting lately, especially on the political discussions that can cause my blood pressure to skyrocket. I like the thumbs up sign, just a little jog to tell the person, hey, I’m here, I’m happy for you or I agree with you. And for those people whom I really don’t know that well, and who are so much younger than I, I stay mostly invisible. I don’t want them to feel judged or censored by an old lady. ouch. I hate that I just said that!;-)

    • You and I share some perspective since we were born late in our parents’ lives. Yah – I forget that our simple presence could make the younger fold feel judged. So do we muzzle ourselves and quietly drift into the woodwork? What a loss if that’s what we do to older people! What a sad state of affairs that the richness of experience would be lost. I go back to aboriginal cultures where the elders are sought, not put into the background.

      This post went on my FaceBook, with the title of course, but I added – “we’re all in this together”. All of us are breaking new turf. So how do we want it to be? We’re the ones breaking trail. Let’s set the course to the benefit of society.

      Let’s not lose the richness of seasoning.

  10. My nieces and nephews have tumbled away from Facebook—-you’ve got it right……they are just not interested in being my “friend.” Not to worry…….we still connect, but back to the old way :-).

    • Ouch, Winsomebella. I hope that doesn’t bite. It’s what happens in life and it is a graceful letting go. I still love my “real life” contact with the family I feel close to.

      I’m glad my nieces and nephews live their FB lives without seeming to worry about what family members may see. I hope they have clued in to the fact that it is an absolute joy to see their lives progress and flourish. I know their postings are only the surface of who they are, but I marvel over their chutzpah and the fun they’re having while they discover their own abilities.

  11. Very interesting. I accept that I’m no longer hip or cool or anything resembling it. I’m okay with it. Of course, even my age group considers me quite dull, I’m sure. Ah, well.

    • Jean, your wonderful brain will never allow you to be “quite dull”. If I had a chance to sit with you over a cup of tea, I’d have a myriad of questions. They would have been formulated from your postings. Hardly dull, my blogger friend.

      Plus I marvel at your heart as you adjust to not only having a roomie after all these years, but having your mom join you with her unique needs. If only more of us could be as open and willing as you. It would transform society.

      • Oh, my goodness. If I could start off each week with words like these from you, my life would be so much less stressful. You can’t begin to imagine how wonderful you’ve made me feel. For that I am so grateful and I’m so thrilled to know you. Yes, I wish you and I could spend some time together in person.

  12. I so agree with you Amy as I am one of those grandkid’s that was so blessed to have grandparents like your mom and dad RIP I truley miss them but with that being said I love you a whole as well. I like some of your other guests am a “like” person on FB more than a comment person

  13. Hmmm…I post my blog to FB, and I comment on what friends and family post. I don’t comment on everything, although I do check it every day to see photos, etc. But I agree it can be tricky. I have accepted some invitations to be friends with people I barely know because it seems rude to refuse…can be awkward! But I think good manners and a “less is more” attitude is my comfort zone. I see so many posts from some friends that make me think they hang out online all day…don’t know how that’s possible! Glad you’re finding your sweet spot with all this! ~ Sheila

    • Hi Sheila…we run a lot of parallels. I was bamboozled by people “following” me. Turns out that they are not a “friend” so can become a follower which gives them access to public postings we make.

      Boy Sheila, being on Face Book can be like a walk though a tough neighbourhood. Need to have all the controls in place!

  14. I got on fb to see our daughter’s wedding pictures. I didn’t want to wait for the photographer’s pictures scheduled to come a few weeks later. Then I found a whole world out there of cousins, children of cousins, oh my! A Dutch cousin of my father even found me! Yet, I don’t comment…just wish everyone a happy birthday, congratulate on babies, graduation, and then my blog posts show up there too. Interesting how folks comment there and not on the “internet blog.” The daughter of a cousin has asked me to let her know when I return to Cincinnati…that was nice. I will let her know when I return in June, and it will be especially nice if she remembers her request. I like the words we write blogging…more than a comment….more than a soundbite…let them read my blog, I think.
    My mother got on fb and then asked me to “Please get that thing off my computer.” Just too overwhelming, I think for one who likes to hear news personally or by letter. I know Wendy’s comment probably made your day!

    • Yes, that’s what I discovered, too, Georgette…family and old friends are a “hook”.

      Wendy’s comment did make my day. In fact I phoned her and we had about a two hour phone conversation. Oh so good to connect!

  15. I like fb because it keeps me up to date with the latest news about relatives living abroad. But I am amazed at how people can so readily declare to the world what happened during their day. This is a very timely post. Fb can indeed be overwhelming.

    • Me, too, Rosanna…it’s so easy to let connections slide with family members far away. It’s not such a big deal while we’re younger, but with time, the connection becomes more sweet and endearing.

  16. I do not feel old either, yet I know all my family considers me so. I do the FB thing just to keep in touch with the nieces and nephews as I do not see them a lot. My grand girls are not old enough to be on it yet .

    • It’s quite a silent, invisible inquisition we face when people begin to treat us as “old”. It means a war using darts dipped in Maple Syrup. Because we don’t feel “old”, different responses can be confusing – like feeling “blown off”. Takes a while to figure it out – which may sound funny to younger people, but it is not funny at all.

  17. Amy, yes.
    With family members in my case, it’s more about their ‘belief system’ – they’re all devout fundamentalists. And though I know they read my posts, I don’t expect a response to them. It wouldn’t befit their religious personae, and I’m not offended. What I “do” hope to accomplish, besides the desire to share what has benefited me in my life, is the occasional spark of awakening from their unhappy lives as servants of too many masters (a wrathful God, husband, priesthood). The perk is that they infer, now and again, that they like my postings. But not in print 😉

    • One generation of nieces & nephews (who seldom comment) tell me they have loved the stories about my Mom and Dad – who were well loved by these grandkids. However, those who are younger may decide to check out my blog (if they even know it exists) when they are my age! 😀 If they do, they’ll be reading about familial strangers.

      When friends who read voraciously email me (no, they don’t comment either??) about one of my posts, I pay attention. I’m not sure why people who read such a great deal are so unwilling to write. I love receiving their input and suggestions.

      I’ve wondered what it was like to be a writer of old…to write and never hear from anyone except the publisher. Or a critic. Little fear of an inflated ego! 🙂

  18. Hi Amy .. great that you’ve bee able to connect, even if that expectation isn’t there from the younger and even younger generation … at least they know you are there and ‘paying attention’ .. they’ll know what they missed in due course – the way of the world and getting old!!

    Cheers HIlary

    • Yes, Hilary, like me, they’ll reach a stage where they look back and think of those of who proceeded. I’m going to just be grateful that I can see them getting on with life!

  19. They say the past is a different country (they do things different there) – but frankly the past is practically next door compared to some of the highways and byways of the internet. I loved this piece of yours – well written and so perceptive. Thank you.

    • You make me think of all the decisions younger people have to make now that life choices (fabulous and unconstitutional) are constantly spread before them. I still believe in the basic goodness of mankind and its ability to chose well. It’s a matter of my remembering that news is largely a sensational display of a minority’s mentality.

  20. Amy,
    both of my sons are now off facebook. I told them the older generation is RULING the world. They just rolled their eyes.
    Twitter is the new facebook for them, I guess. Oh well, I can stalk them there, too!

    Xxx LOVE. You rock.

    • Kim, did you work around your parents? If so…well, you know about the acorn. If you’ve found a way to implant different DNA in certain parts of the acorn, may I be your agent?!

      You are probably such a cool mom that the kids want to hang with you!

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