[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you missed it over the weekend, a new feature has been added to Time Goes By: Where Elders Blog. Get a peek at the places people blog and please join us by sending a photo of your blog space.. The announcement/instructions are here.]
Last Friday in Part 1, we discussed the changing blogosphere - specifically that attempts to monetize blogs leave many so cluttered with ads they look like newspaper inserts for K-Mart, and that social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. are luring bloggers away from more thoughtful and entertaining posts to quick shots of “what I’m doing now”.
The comments expand on the point and Virginia DeBolt of WebTeacher had a particularly interesting thought:
“Our electronic lives are being packed into more and more compact devices, such as iPhones or Blackberries. When everything is small and wireless, and keyboards are reduced to something you search one fingertip at a time, then things like Tweets take the place of blog posts. Everything is abbreviated into a text message. Our individual interactions with the electronic world increase, therefore we attempt to make each individual interaction briefer.”
Virginia is on to something regarding the medium being the message. It’s damned hard to expand on a thought with any depth or even tell a joke while trying to tap quarter-inch-wide keys.
Taken a step further, the question becomes: what does this do to our minds and attention spans? For 60 years, television has trained us to concentrate only in eight-minute bursts and try to hold that thought during three minutes of disparate commercials. Remember that show, Short Attention Span Theater? It was hilarious, but the underlying premise made a serious point.
Now, our miniaturized technology is further reducing our thought processes to 140 characters, and watching movies or news on a two-inch phone screen diminishes our worldview dramatically.
For several reasons, few old folks are likely to abandon blogging for iPhones or to follow the younger generations to MySpace and Twitter in numbers that matter.
- Many elders are just getting started with computers. There is a learning curve for those who were not born with a mouse in their hand
- Declining eyesight and motor skills preclude some elders from using miniature devices
- Elders are less inclined to need to be in 24/7 contact with others that miniature devices and social media sites almost demand
- Elders have less desire than young people to follow the latest fads
- Many technology-savvy elders are just discovering blogging, attracted by the opportunity to share their stories and make new friends. (Elders are the fastest-growing age cohort online.)
Among Carl Jung’s seven tasks of aging is “determining the meaning of one’s life.” As David Wolfe brilliantly explains that at his Ageless Marketing blog,
“Life meaning among the young is framed by styles of appearance, language, material acquisitions, and social affiliations in the quest for a solid footing in the external world...
“However, the search for life meaning undergoes a major shift in the second half of life. Whatever people’s material success, many find less and less meaning from “things.” So, they begin to look inward rather than to the outer world in their search for life meaning.”
One way of doing that is putting order and coherence to the events of our lives and blogging is an ideal forum for telling those stories. Listen to Dr. William H. Thomas in his book What Are Old People For? on the subject of information and storytelling:
“Adults and elders alike confuse expertise and information with wisdom and stories…In the life of a healthy community, stories actually matter more than information. They are also far more durable. Stories are told only when they can be heard, heard only when they are told. They come to life in the moment of their telling and then make a place in our memories…
“Storytelling is one of the pleasures of life, its sweetness is enhanced when the story is used to transmit a bit of wisdom…Technical information, useful as it is, has little or no wisdom to it.”
Whether elderblogs can claim to transmit wisdom or not (I have found much wisdom in many), they provide an unparalleled benefits for elders.
As we have discussed here in the past, as people get older, their social worlds can shrink. Children and grandchildren may live thousands of miles away. In retirement, there is no longer the daily interaction with colleagues, nor the easy opportunity for making new friends at work. Old friends and relatives die. And sometimes, mobility issues keep elders from getting out and about as easily or frequently as in the past.
And although it is a new phenomenon, the friendships forged through blogging become as important, close and caring as with our in-person friends. When I left my home of 37 years in Manhattan in mid-2006, to live in Portland, Maine, the first year would have painfully lonely without my blog friends.
There are other important benefits for elders in blogging. At least one study reported at the Eide Neurolearning Blog has shown that blogging keeps minds from stagnating by promoting, among other things
- critical and analytical thinking
- creative, intuitive, and associational thinking
- a combination of the best of solitary reflection and social interaction
For all these reasons, elderblogging is not only here to stay, it will grow even while, perhaps, younger people gravitate to shorter venues, smaller devices and other changes that will ensue. I hope some of those younger people will reconsider longer-form blogging; I would miss their voices.
Or, perhaps it takes getting older to appreciate the pleasures of contemplation – private and out loud on our blogs.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kay Richard recalls a episode of sweet revenge in Smokin' in the Garage.]