Trickle Down Celebrity Ageism
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The Facebook Menace

In the past week or so, Crabby Old Lady has received dozens of Facebook emails

  • from strangers who want to be her friend
  • from people she knows sending imaginary snowballs, beer and teddy bears
  • from the same people asking her to send the imaginary beer back to them
  • from people requesting she write on their walls
  • from people asking her to write on their superwalls, whatever that is
  • from people asking her to join a group of some kind

Some of these requests require Crabby to install third-party programs to read the messages. One took so long that she made lunch, read two chapters of a book and when she returned to her desk, it was still installing itself.

In addition, Facebook may be the most usability-challenged site on the web. Crabby Old Lady might have sent that beer back if she could have figured out how. And write on a wall? Crabby can’t find any walls on Facebook or much of anything else. The navigation sucks.

Nevertheless, sometimes she succumbs to the email notices and dips in her toe. She is always sorry.

Another annoyance is that whenever Crabby accepts a friend invitation, the form asks where she met the person. Crabby thinks it’s pretty strange that a website created by a college student doesn’t have a “through blogging” choice, and since she didn’t go to college, the numerous requests for college connections and affiliations are useless to Crabby. Plus, there is another irritation no one seems to mention - the pages are incredibly slow to load.

If all that weren't enough to send Crabby fleeing, there is also the uncomfortable guilt factor to Facebook. All those people who send Crabby Old Lady beer, teddy bears and ask her to write on their walls mean well. Some of them are Crabby’s friends, people she likes, and it feels rude to her not to respond. But she can’t keep up with her real email so imaginary beer is not on her agenda and she doesn’t like feeling guilty or unfriendly every day.

Facebook’s ageist groups have been discussed here in the past, but a link recently fell into Crabby’s inbox leading to an even more disgusting report. Facebook founder/media-golden-boy, 24-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at a tech conference last spring, had this advice for aspiring technology entrepreneurs:

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,’ he stated. ‘If you want to found a successful company, you should only hire young people with technical expertise… Young people are just smarter.”

The TGB Bias Test hasn’t been used in a long time, but these statements cry out for it. The test involves replacing ageist bigotry in public statements with racist or sexist bigotry to show how little attention is paid when the targets are old people.

Hardly anyone objected to Mr. Zuckerberg’s ageist statements, but imagine the uproar if he had said, “You should hire only white people” or “Men are just smarter.”

Wolf Blitzer would have led the The Situation Room with that story.

Thousands of old people use Facebook. Apparently, Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t mind adding them to his questionable membership count, but he wouldn’t hire any of them. His stunning ignorance is an excellent example of the reasons to not give inexperienced young people too much money, adulation and power. This kid doesn’t even know that if it is his hiring practice to exclude old people, it would be better for him and his investors (Microsoft) to keep his mouth shut about it in public.

For all these reasons, Crabby Old Lady tried to cancel her membership. But that’s not so easy at Facebook. In fact, it is impossible. One can only “deactivate” an account and even then, you must be sure to check a box to opt out of future email. A note warns:

“Even after you deactivate, your friends can still invite you to events, tag you in photos, or ask you to join groups. If you opt out, you will NOT receive these email invitations and notifications from your friends.”

Oh, dear - as if this breaks Crabby’s heart. But more important, it means her presence is not removed from Facebook and she has lost control of her information.

In addition, it means that Facebook’s phenomenal membership statistics are false; since no one can cancel, membership can only grow. Do you think Bill Gates thought this through before investing in Facebook? There is no telling how many people, like Crabby, want out and can't do it.

So Crabby Old Lady must be content to “deactivate” her Facebook account. She doesn’t mean to be rude to her friends – real and ephemeral – but to her, the “service” represents all the things that are wrong with so-called social media.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grannymar tells of her efforts to "gift wrap" her daughter in I Gave My Wedding Dress Away.]


This is at best disgusting from Mr. Zuckerberg comments, which are at best immature, to the fact that one can't escape if one so wishes. I think we elders should protest. How do we do that?

OOPS!!!!! I hit "post" too soon! What you're saying is that Facebook is SPAM that one can't escape! I hate Spam -- especially if it's from an ageist brat.

To play devil's advocate for only a moment: My sense is that many of these young people are referring to people "stuck" in their ways teconologically, who, yes, are often older.

I am recalling stories from my own family. Relatives who, for instance, refused to use the new fangled device called the telephone, say, or 30ish friends of mine who, in the early 90's, adamantly refused to communicate via email because they were sure it was a passing fad.

The ageist statements of course, are appalling and should be pointed out to all, thanks for that Ronni.

As far as Facebook/my space is concerned, you can keep them, I am not signing up. They are as bad or worse as email chain letters. I had someone proudly tell me at an event last night that her son posted an image of mine on HIS space. Without permission, stolen of course. Well, thats a whole 'nother can of worms altogether.

Lifehacker voted Facebook as 'Company Most Likely to turn Completely Evil' this year, because of their Beacon add-on, which enables them to track what users are doing across other websites, without any option. Zuckerman has now listened to the outrage and given people the option to turn it off.
Another worrying Facebook development is the way in which companies are using it as a recruitment aid. I don't mean the well-publicised examples of employers finding out about candidates' drunken revels, but the 'corporatisation' of organisations to carry out recruitment drives. For example the firm I work for has its own Facebook group which it uses to encourage people to come along to recruitment days. The more organisations that do this, the more job-seekers will feel they need to join Facebook to stay in the active jobs market, and the more people will fall into Facebook's clutches.
Enough - I've never really used it much, but I'm off to deactivate my account.

Wow, that's amazing that you can't un-join Facebook. I never joined it but did MySpace to enable seeing some other profiles. It's easy to delete nor did I ever receive any spam from it.

And the Facebook creator's attitude to age is unreal, ignorant not to mention scary. I have read somewhere though that that group was originally only intended for the young-- guess not including older folks didn't draw him enough money...

You know what, COL? You are growing a nice set of testicles, and THIS 64 year old lady gardener is LOVING it. Excellent post. Keep it up. This is the Abbie Hoffman strut.

My mom got added to a friends TOP FRIENDS list on Facebook and wanted to add her back. Since I was down in Florida, I tried to do it.

I couldn't figure it out. It should be easy, but it's hard.

There are two of these sites. The other is myspace. I made a mistake and joined the myspace to read a friend's blog. You note that Open Diary is difficult to navigate. I found that myspace impossible to use. I thought that perhaps my damaged brain was unable to handle it. Now I am understand it's them. Hurrah.

I'm a bit crabby myself, now that I've read Zuckerberg's comments.

Here again is a measure of the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is about how to do something; wisdom is about whether or not to do it at all. So much on the internet seems to me a waste of this technology. And, from what I’ve seen, many young people do not understand how isolated they are from their own historical foundations, from the benefits of discerning elder wisdom.

When I was 24 years old, I had more respect for my elders. I am 58. About 10 years ago, I was hearing from the over 50 group about discrimination against them. I felt, at the time, that surely this could not be. But, now, everyday I am personally confronted with age discrimination. We are we to do?

In proof reading my post, I missed an error in the last line, which should read: What are we to do?

The founder for MySpace isn't age friendly either. He has reportedly been lying about his real age of 32 down to 27 when he started MySpace. Here's a report from TechCrunch. Although never confirmed, it's as if he's afraid people would know he's in his 30's when he started the tech company.

Hmmm -- I think I've seen this movie before: "You can't just 'leave' the Mafia; you're always one of us."
Young twerp!

We can say unequivocally that Mr. Zuckerberg is smarter as a young man than he has been at any other stage of his adult life. ;-)

One suspects he will want to recast his careless, not to say brainless, remarks when they are thrown in his face by some up and coming youngster 20 or 25 years from now.

This is the sweet little whammy built into ageism. The sexist man, unless transgendered (but then, why would he be sexist?) will never wake up female. The white racist will never wake up as a person of color. But the young, at least those who manage to avoid dying young, invariably find themselves old one day.

This admittedly is too slow a process to provide any relief to those of us who have already gone gray, but the vengeance it visits is complete when it finally rolls around. Or perhaps Mr. Z thinks he will avoid this vengeance by the natural process of becoming stupid as he ages...

Okay, so according to Mr. Zuckerberg I am already past my prime, turning 30 this weekend. Although perhaps I was already past it years ago. I'm so appreciative of 24-year-olds who know so much more than I do. I'd be so lost, otherwise.

It seems to me that a good portion of these young entrepreneur geeks are still compensating for being social outcasts back in high school by acting this way. Unfortunately, commercial success doesn't help one's social development all that much. Hell, I was a nerd in high school, I was ignored by the guys, but that doesn't mean I go around now tarting myself up and saying I'm too good for most men. And this is essentially what Mr. Z is doing, if you exchange the sex interests with business peers.

A smart person will grow up, realize that high school is long behind them, and treat others as they'd want to be treated. Stunted types will continue to live in high school and assume everyone is against them.

(That's MHO, anyways. I wouldn't call myself wise, just perhaps a tad more than the person in question.)

"I couldn't figure it out. It should be easy, but it's hard."

So said Steve who is our Millie's son. Steve is a computer whiz so if anything is hard for him I want no part of it.

Mr. Zuckerberg let me say that YOU are not one of those young people who are "just smarter." And you certainly lack wisdom !

Makes me glad I never signed up with either Facebook or My Space. Not letting anyone leave inflates the numbers and then when he sells it he will get a larger price.
I should channel my Great Grandmother and call him a young whippersnapper that needs to be taught better manners.

"Nobody can make you feel bad without your permission." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Ok so Mr Fancypants Facebook inventor thinks older people are not worth hiring. I wonder if Mr Zuckerberg can make brioche? Can he run a household on very very little money? Can he knit anything, sew, get chickens to lay eggs in the middle of December? Produce a television show? Speak Yiddish or Sign Language? Can he take stunning photographs? Write poetry? Does he know what to do if a baby has a temperature? Does he know how to grow vegetables to feed his entire family for a year? I think of all the incredible skills that the elders (and elder wannabes) have that read this blog and these skills are SO valuable and diverse.

I have a 14 year old son who thinks he knows everything, but in reality he is beginning his journey. I have to keep that kid in check, but not squash his enthusiasm. I bet Mr Zuckerberg's parents are embarrassed that he said that. In his world, Mr Zuckerberg is very valuable but he wouldn't be very valuable in mine.

On Elderwomanspace, the network I started a few weeks ago for 'third age' women, you can elect not to receive any emails at all. You just go to the site when you want to communicate with people and read the messages they have left for you. It feels civilized, friendly, interesting and meaningful. And I aim to keep it that way. From what I hear of Facebook, it sounds about as pleasant and friendly a place to spend the day as JFK airport. Why bother with it in the first place?

Call me childish and superficial! ;)
I re-joined facebook on my daughter's insistence and find it amusing if often silly and sometimes difficult to grasp. But I must admit I have enjoyed being able to find out what's happened to quite a few of my students, something that would never have been possible otherwise. In other words, I have mostly been lurking.

Of course, the idea of finding out about old friends is preposterous when you are my age, so I haven't even tried to do that.
Also, I think you only reveal whatever you like about yourself and guess that my blog is much more revealing than any facebook profile ;)
That of course, doesn't mean that I approve of any stupid statement that Mr Zuckerberg may have made. And I totally agree that the fact that one cannot LEAVE Facebook is bad practice.

I am another blogger invited to join Facebook by family. I disliked it from the start.

Ronni I have used the quote above on my blog with a link here 'cause you say it so much better than I can.

I hope that in 20 years time some young buck still wet behind the ears, stands up at a meeting to remind Mark Zuckerberg of these words! Maybe I will still be around to smile!

Some of these twenty-somethings seem to honestly believe that the Internet and all that surrounds it just sprang up fully formed one morning just waiting for them to plug in their computers, when they were 12 (maybe 8).

The only reason I'm on facebook is to keep in touch with two of my kids who are abroad. It was fun for about 5 minutes.

I somehow got lured to Facebook, but admit, I never go there or participate.
And after hearing what Zuckerman had to can bet it's definitely off limits for me.
So add me as being crabby right along with you....

Mr. Zuckerberg may be a technical wunderkind, but he has a lot of growing up to do.

His dismissive attitude towards old people makes me wonder. I wonder if he has any significant people in his life older than 30. I wonder what he thinks of his parents. I wonder if his grandparents are alive. I wonder how he feels about them. I wonder what he thinks of his university profs (many of whom must have been old by his standards). I just wonder . . . .

I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because of his youthful ignorance, but if he truly believes the young are smarter than the old, then I think it's a matter of arrogance rather than ignorance.

I'm only on Facebook to stay in touch with my university nursing class. One of my classmates thought it would be easy and fun to set up a private group. So far, only a few of us have figured out the interface, so it's just languishing there.

Facebook, blah. Went there once to view a young friend's page. Utterly B O R I N G. Waste of time. Glad I never joined.

Don't spend too much time worrying about the young. Let them have their fun. I just joined Facebook to post to other Boomers or Seniors that might be using this space. I especially like the 'wall post' function. I don't expect much from this resource but I can still GIVE what I have the ability to give.

Crabby: It is my impression that college students are not that into blogging. I think they think blogging is for Mommies and Old People. At least that is the impression I get from my own high school and college-age children who think it's funny that their mom, who was constantly accusing them of Computer Game addiction their whole lives, is now a nefarious blogger.

I certainly don't like the ageist comment of the Facebook founder, and am glad that you bring it to our attention, Ronni.

But: Oh dear - I so enjoy all the fun and nonsense on Facebook! It's a way for me to relax and become playful sometimes. In addition, I have regained contact with one or two long lost old friends in different parts of the world. I just really and truly don't seem to take it all so seriously.

Haha, Crabby, I am so crabby that I do not want to join Facebook of MySpace; I seek out smaller sites such as this one where I meet plenty of like-minded people who know better than to send me chain letters. It sounds like Facebook is not a company destined to become most evil but is already well on its way to that honor. Can't wait until Mr. Zuckerman is old -- and it IS going to happen, hahah -- and somebody tells him he is stupid and useless.

Well, thanks for the warning, Ronni. I wasn't actually thinking of joining Facebook but I certainly wouldn't dream of it now. And as for youngsters who think they know it all - one day they'll grow up and realise they don't.

Evidently Young Master Z didn't attend Gnomedex, or catch your session, Ronni, or he might not have uttered his ignorant pronouncement. This looks to be a natural outcome of entitlement, the plague that is ravishing our younger population. There is a joke going around the internet (I can only paraphrase) about a young techie bragging to an old man about all the "new" technology he and his peers have developed. The elder, after listening patiently to the litany, simply replied, "Who do you think invented computers? Radio? Television? People my age."

There is no such thing as one "generation" being better or smarter than another. Life is a continuum. We build on the successes, and hopefully the failures, of the person before us.

Clearly, YMZee has a lot of building--and learning--to do...

I started thinking today about the lead in Chinese toys thing, and I realized that the people around Zuckerberg's age got their toys from China too, but nobody was testing for lead. I think that may explain a whole lot about that age group.

You might be interested in this other post that also talks about having trouble quitting Facebook:

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