The biggest surprise from the Older Bloggers Survey is the age of the respondents. It is a surprise for several reasons: this was labeled an “Older Bloggers” survey. We live in a culture that deliberately hides and ignores older folks. And this timegoesby.net Weblog is openly, blatantly, intentionally about getting older.
Nevertheless, 40 percent of survey respondents are younger than 45.
This is not a complaint. It is most gratifying to have an intergenerational audience. In fact, that was a goal from the launch of this blog, though not one I have yet put much attention to accomplishing except for the description of timegoesby.net used in Web directories:
Age is the one minority we all, with luck, will join so it behooves us to find out what it is really like.
As agreeable as it is to have a wide age range of readers, it also means the survey, purposely unscientific to begin with, is not about older bloggers now. It is about bloggers of all ages who responded to the survey. But, it is more interesting than originally planned, I believe, for the comparisons.
Answers were about evenly divided between “little” and “unconcerned” as to how much personal information to reveal. Slightly more than half use their real given names. One uses an alias to avoid tipping her employer to her political opinions. Two responses help show that there may be more common ground among generations than is commonly thought:
“I don’t have difficulty or any reticence about revealing anything I have experienced. I have no rules about what to post or not to post. I let the moment guide me.” [Thomas, 61]
“I don’t worry too much about revealing personal information, but generally I don’t go out of my way to do so.” [Laura, 20-something]
Several older bloggers began using computers before there were PCs and now, thanks to the simplicity of Weblog services, creating and maintaining a Weblog something almost anyone can do. Still, computers and the Internet can be confusing for some older folks:
“I had my first taste of computers in 1959, in the Air Force using them to control long-range radar (a flop, by the way). The need to use a computer did not resurface until 1999. I still have not come close to catching up.” [Byron, 63]
“I watched a 70-year-old man learn to use the computer and become completely addicted. Even so, when I said I would email him, he still insisted, ‘I need to turn on the computer first, wait!’“ [Sylvia, 36]
Younger folks may take to the technology of computers and the Internet more easily than some older people, but one older blogger made this age distinction:
“I am always thrilled to find older people blogging since they write well on a variety of topics and can also spell. I also admire the younger ones’ ability to design an interesting, beautiful-looking blog even if what they post is only about their friends and school life.” [Carol, 56]
To be fair, I believe, we should note that older bloggers often write “only” about their friends and work lives too. If older writers are more interesting, perhaps it has to do with accumulated years of experience. The kids will catch up.
It surprised me that so many believe online friendships are as strong, or nearly so, as their real-world counterparts. They are less comfortable, says GT [age unknown], “but only a little.”
“They’re not on the level of people I’ve known in the real world for years longer, but they’re pretty dear friends.” [Laura, 20-something]
“Like real-world friends, sometimes you just find a commonality or kindred spirit that has the feeling of a longtime friendship.” [Cowtown Pattie, 50]
“Ah yup, a few, including you…” [Thomas, 61]
Personal Importance and Rewards
For every respondent, blogging has been weaved into daily life, sometimes at the expense of other interests, but the pleasures are a powerful attraction to continue.
“A means of expressing my passion for the philosophy of gadgets and light science is what led me to blogging. I have another urge that’s driving me: I’m sick of conforming; I’m really having issues with doing what is expected of me. The freedom of expression that is at the centre of blogging, the downright, bare-faced irony and thirty-something cheek that shines out from so many blogs also attracts me.” [Jason, 35]
“It gives a lot back. Strong friendships with multiple people I would not easily maintain contact with otherwise.” [Laura, 20-something]
“Very [important]. Any further opportunity for self-expression, to play with different parts of my personality. Sometimes I wonder what other activities I could be doing with the time I use blogging.” [Thomas, 61]
“My blogging has become a very important, almost obsessive new creative activity for me. It does take time away from other things, so sometimes there are conflicts of time management.” [Marja-Leena, 50-something]
One respondent, Sylvia, is an online friend from fotolog.net, a sort-of reverse Weblog in which photographs take center stage with text as the accompaniment. A few people – Sylvia and I are examples – have adapted fotolog into a hybrid Weblog/fotolog as she explains:
“It’s a nice outlet for my short stories. Losing that would hurt most, I think. But I also enjoy the community and the bouncing off each other and, for fotolog, the varied imagery from other people. For whatever reason, it works better for me than a text-based forum like LiveJournal.” [Sylvia, 35]
Blogging is Here to Stay
It’s fascinating, addictive and ego-building, the easiest vanity publishing there has ever been, and all who responded agree - it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“Are you kidding. People love to tell others what they think and it’s so easy to do now. There’s always going to be opinionated schnooks like me to do this sort of thing. [GT, age unknown]
“Let’s be honest. Lots of people love to write, love to express themselves, love to think others are watching. We can go out there and read and connect with people…we might otherwise never have encountered.” [Laura, 20-something]
“…as long as online access is relatively inexpensive.” [Thomas, 61]
“Yes, without a doubt. Indeed, I am confident we shall all be talked about as the blogging generation, the pioneers of text-based form of expressions that defined the turn of the new millennium.” [Jason, 35]
And as one of timegoesby.net’s youngest readers put it:
No matter how far apart you go,
your keyboards will keep you together,
and in your heart you will know
you don't need a face to be a true friend forever.
So, How do you explain this to people
who've never been online?
I guess it takes a gesture of friendship
& a little bit of time.