As further proof that I am a real boomer, I admit that I don’t have much use for most social media. Not that all boomers are like that, because I know a good number of my fellow boomers who seem to use and love all kinds of social media on a regular basis. But I’d guess that I am in good company with those who don’t value social media as much as those much younger than us.
First of all, let me say that I actually know a few things about social media, so I’m not just some old guy who is completely ignorant of technology.
I remember a good number of years ago when I worked for a large manufacturing company in an administrative position — I would be sitting there in my fine cubicle minding the business of my job and the founder of the company would come wandering by, which he did from time to time. He was in his 80s then, and you recall that years ago personal computers, e-mail and social media were nothing like they are today. I had a PC at home at the time, but at work I used a mainframe workstation, and e-mail was nothing more than a cumbersome programming tool that only a few used. Social media was still in the womb.
This 80-something founder would stop at various peoples’ desks to chat and see what was going on, and since I was always staring at my computer monitor, he’d usually make a comment to me that he had never used a computer and never would. For him, it was a badge of honor to not get caught up in all that useless computer stuff. Likewise other management people that I knew then – most never used a computer themselves. They let the tech nerds or their assistants do all that.
So just because I don’t value social media all that much, it doesn’t mean that I am clueless about it like that 80-something guy was about computers. I know very well that there are good uses for social media. The big difference for me is that I use social media where there is a practical need or application; I don’t use it for entertainment.
This is the big departure for me, and perhaps for many boomers. Younger folks, like Millennials, can’t live without social media. They go out to lunch or dinner and take pictures of their food when it is placed in front of them and immediately post the pictures online, and within minutes they have comments on the post from their friends. They learn about each other and tell and show everything about themselves via social media. They find the essence of life in social media.
A month or so ago, my youngest daughter was sitting with us in our family room one Sunday afternoon doing homework on her laptop. Apparently my wife and I fell asleep in our chairs for a while (never happened before). The following week, I was in church and talking with a younger friend of mine, and he joked how funny the video was of us sleeping. Yes, my dear daughter took a video of us and posted it for her hundreds (thousands?) of friends to view. My wife and I became temporarily famous, thanks to social media. I would never think to post a video like that. (We’re still friends with this child, by the way.)
I work with a younger guy in his early 30s who posts a tweet on Twitter every single day. He does not need to do that for his work, but he does it faithfully, I guess for fun. He says he has some 600 followers who receive his missives. What the heck does he tell these hundreds of people? And why on earth do these hundreds of people want to read about him every single day? And most of these adoring fans probably read about a bunch of other people who are tweeting their life out to the world. Do younger people spend all day just reading all the hundreds of tweets coming at them?
I don’t even want to know what my own kids are doing or thinking every day. So why would I want to know what my work colleagues are up to every single day? And I sure don’t want to tell hundreds of strangers what I’m doing on a daily basis.
And then there’s Facebook. It fills a need and it can be very entertaining to keep up with friends and family. I don’t discount its personal and business uses. But daily? Really? I haven’t touched my own personal Facebook page in well over a year. And despite that, my life is fulfilling and meaningful.
Now, the one social media platform that I do like is Linkedin. I use it for business to identify contacts, make contact and see what people do and how they fit in to their companies. It’s actually useful so I look at it pretty much every day. So far it has remained mostly “pure” as a business tool without a lot of personal fluff. Still, there are people who get mixed up and seem to think Linkedin is Facebook — they post family pictures or they overdo it on the personal stuff.
One guy I’m connected to likes to change his Linkedin profile picture every other week or so, as if we all want to see what he does in his free time. He has posted profile pictures of his family on a beach, him standing next to his car, him running over the finish line of a marathon, and he even posted a picture of himself in hunting clothes holding a rifle, next to a dead animal. Apparently he thought the Linkedin community would want to see him as some great hunter. Please, save that for an audience that actually cares about your personal life.
Another annoying trend on Linkedin is people who post puzzles, slogans, inspiring pictures, or cutesy things that are great for Facebook, not so great for a business audience. Again, save that for some other social media platform and don’t clutter up my information feed with your hobbies and personal stuff.
Finally, there are those folks on Linkedin who post articles and their personal likes not once a day, not twice a day, but multiple times a day. They must spend the day finding stuff they think is interesting and then throwing it at us all. Where do they have time for that? I don’t want to see your likes and interests every time I look at Linkedin!
Am I being cranky here? I guess I just want to make my limited use of social media as efficient as possible. If I wanted to kill time looking at the family life or personal interests of others, I’d use Facebook or Instagram or a dozen other platforms that cater to the social needs of strangers.
I say: Keep it where it needs to be.
Maybe I am a little bit like that company founder who liked to say that he had no use for computers. He didn’t see the need for new technology in his world. That’s the thing: I love technology and new stuff if I can use it, but not just because it’s there. That’s why I turn my cell phone off at night — I don’t need it while I’m sleeping.