Grandma Twitter and the Baby Boomers

Having spent the past two months mentoring various friends and family in social media as we traveled about the USA, The Husband turned to me this morning after tea to say--"You know, you should write a blog (or book) about it."

About what? I asked, truly puzzled.

About social media-because a lot of our friends and family don't get what the social media is.

Oh....all of that new stuff that all too many of my fellow baby boomers and AARP members curl their waxed upper lip disdainfully at. New stuff like Facebook, twitter, text and blogging.

"Oh--fill-in--the--blank, no, I don't need that."

Brings back a vague childhood memory of my 60-something ancient grandmother looking at the landline telephone in fear. "Will I get a shock?", she'd ask.

Even in Chicago some of my fellow volunteers at the Art Institute of Chicago look at the computer at our public information stations--as if the deus en machina will explode in their faces. "I can't use it," they whisper to me in awe at my ability to open a web site to answer a visitor's question.

I tell them all about my darling Aunt Fae. Over 90-years old, she uses her computer to keep up with friends and family by email, checking the latest photos sent by her family like her grand-niece in the UK. If Aunt Fae can do it, you can too.

First, a caveat. I am not an IT person. The number of times I've cursed at the computer--good thing it is a desktop model making it more difficult to toss out of the window--well, let's just say. I'm part Irish. It shows. And I'm thankful I have a cooler headed husband to help me.

But in 1984 while living on the island of Curacao, I decided it was time to learn about this machine everyone was talking about. All you heard about was computers this, or computers will one day do that. So I took an evening computer class. There was one on the island in English. Mostly it was simple programming, but what was important was it got me over fear of the machine. In 1988 we bought our first home computer, an Apple, when our daughter, in a special class in her school in Guayaquil, Ecuador-- needed a home computer.

You read that right. Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1988. Jennie taught me how to use that machine. Again, I learned--it is only a machine. Just a machine. Like a car--and I bet you can drive a car. So if you've missed computer 101--spend the time to learn it. Go to a library class, or hire a kid to teach you. It will open your world.

Now on to that social media stuff, like Facebook. Full disclosure--I was a lousy Facebook user. Rarely read any of it, only using it to throw up--like graffiti on a wall--whatever I was reading online that I wanted to share. So I quit Facebook. But given it's hit a billion users, clearly many want to really read about what their friends are saying and doing. And there are a LOT of photos you won't see in any other place.

Twitter. I LOVE twitter. No I don't use it to tweet everything I do, again--who has time for that? But I do use it to make consumer complaints. I've tweeted an issue and had responses from: Dollar Rent-a-car, Com-Ed, the Chicago Tribune, AT&T, my Alderman, CTA, CSO musicians and others. You hear that right, some responses came literally within a handful of minutes of my tweet. Just put that old @  or # (hash mark) ahead of the name. Does it always work? No. But when it does I feel like I hit a home run--in Chicago that is a worthwhile ambition.

And yes, sometimes I'm at an event I'm so excited by I will take a quick photo with my smart phone and tweet it. And I do actually follow some on my smart phone, including our son and daughter--and CTA. Great real time updates of issues with CTA, an important thing to know if you use mass transit as I do.

Texting, is the IM (instant messaging) of a generation. For those who missed IM--think of it as a postcard before postcards became so expensive to mail that no one sends them anymore. I have two well-used email accounts--but text daily, including one newly retired friend. It's a reach-out-and-touch each other moment that I think has brought us closer once again--as we were 40-something years ago. As for the thirty-years old and under someone in your life--if you want a response don't leave a voice mail. Even email can be ignored for days--but text--is immediate and they read it. Best odds of an instant response.

Blogging is something I swore I'd never do. But clearly, I am. When I was asked by people at the Chicago Tribune if I wanted to do this, I said--NO. Why would I? But my daughter changed my mind--I always listen to my adult daughter and son, often following their advice. Why not. If you think you have something to say, say it. You may anger some--but that only means you have a position and it is only the wusses of the world who don't anger somebody.

After all an early letter to the editor in Houston TX angered someone.

"Is Candy Boggs there?", a male voice asked at 9 AM in about 1964.

"No," said my mother. "She's at school. Who IS this?"

Just another disaffected reader of what I thought.




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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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