In a vague sort of way, Crabby Old Lady keeps her eye on commercial websites aimed at her age group hoping to see something that marshals a whole lot more resources than Crabby – only one person – can bring to the subject of “what it's really like to get old.”
About a year ago, Twin Cities Public Television in Minneapolis-St. Paul launched a website for people 50 and older called Next Avenue. The subtitle of Next Avenue is “where grownups keep growing” and in an interview with The New York Times, vice president and editorial director, Donna Sapolin, said the site would
“...'bring a PBS sensibility,' to the online venture. 'It’s a certain level of gravitas and erudition and mission focus,' she said.”
Crabby supposes what that means is dependent upon PBS's definitions of gravitas and erudition because Next Avenue's stories are so consistently light and airy they are in danger of floating off the screen.
When they are not insulting a reader's intelligence with vague platitudes (on unemployment: “observe strict daily grooming habits”), they indulge in the kind of pop-psychology and generic advice articles more suited to Cosmopolitan. Except, that well may be an insult to Cosmo.
Although most are too superficial to be useful, there are the usual (and totally unoriginal) nuts-and-bolts stories on health, finance, living, etc. that are more interesting and thorough almost anywhere else online. Here is a sampling of some current headlines:
Can Bubbly Boost Brain Power?
How to Beat 'Tip of the Tongue' Syndrome
Nutrition Facts: Reading the Label
6 Money-Saving Travel Secrets
The biggest puzzle for Crabby is why, at a website that purports to be for people who are 50 and older, the only old people mentioned are readers' parents.
The reason Crabby Old Lady bothers with Next Avenue at all anymore is she keeps hoping it will get better. But this week, they have moved from dumb and irrelevant to fake and irresponsible:
“Beware Your Cell Phone!” blares the headline. “It Causes Wrinkles, Cosmetic Surgeons Say.”
John Stark, the “articles editor” at Next Avenue, writes:
”According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery [ASAPS], smartphones can make you look prematurely old. There’s no medical name for this condition, at least not yet. Until there is I’m calling it 'smartphone face.'”
Then he quotes the ASAPS website where he says he discovered this “condition:”
“Lines and creases may develop if you spend an excessive amount of time texting and checking your email on your smartphone. The constant downward gaze caused by smartphone use may be causing some individuals to experience more lines and creases on their neck than would appear naturally.”
Wha? How stupid does Mr. Stark think Crabby Old Lady is? This screams FAKE and CHARLATAN and SNAKEOIL and anyway, people have been reading books - which also involved a "downward gaze" - for centuries without developing "bookface." This, apparently, what passes for gravitas and erudition at PBS these days and although Crabby has always held a healthy skepticism of the organization's pretensions, this is a new low.
For some inexplicable reason, Time magazine bothered to look into this “smartphone face” claim a few days ago, asking British cosmetician, Dr. Mervyn Patterson to weigh in on the validity of it:
”According to Patterson, more and more people are noticing what they look like while they’re Skyping or video-conferencing. And they’re not happy with what they see. But is there any truth to it?
“Short answer: probably not. There’s no real science to prove that smartphone face even remotely exists...”
In other words, this Next Avenue story is more suited to Weekly World News or pretty much any supermarket tabloid than a website for elders that promises "gravitas and erudition."
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Money