The Roast of the Silver Surfers
*The following is an awesome guest post by Forrest Whaling, my new friend I found at MyBlogGuest. Psst, if you want to find new blogging friends and exchange cool guest posts like the one below, join MyBlogGuest *
By the age of 8, I should have been keen on the idea that my parents’ generation was doomed. While they barely trusted me to pick out my outfit, I certainly could not trust them with the TV, VCR, or any other device that had buttons and required electricity. I guess I just mistook them for being stubborn at the time.
Now, at age 24, I realize they may have been at a disadvantage during the advent of the Internet. Right now, these “Silver Surfers” (defined as baby boomers ages 45 to 63) make up roughly 30.9% of the total online population according to a study conducted by eMarketer. Senior citizens over the age of 65, on the other hand, make up less than 10%.Why the disparity? I believe the Silver Surfer generation was at the perfect age when the Internet was becoming hip. While the still had the desire to be cool, the generation above was too old to give a damn.
I remember the day my father brought home this top-of-the-line unwieldy box made by Dell. Most likely swindled by some nerdy commission-based employee at Circuit City, he was nonetheless proud of himself. I mean, this thing had a 56k modem that allowed us to connect to the Internet and check e-mail. My parents were now HIP! The cacophony of beeps and static noises it spewed forth as our family huddled around and watched all three stages of the AOL sign in screen was magical.
“Welcome…You’ve got Mail”
“Hot damn!!!” said my father, smitten with his purchase. But the celebration was short-lived:
“Ok…so how do I do this crap? What is all this stuff?” hoping that if he squinted hard enough at the intimidating colors and animations, the answer would appear.
“Click on the mailbox picture Dad….duh!” I exclaimed.
After that swift sucker-punch to his ego, he cautiously clicked the icon to reveal our first “Welcome to AOL” email. We were in love. We were cool, we were WITH IT! Eventually, my parents got the hang of it, and my mom actually became quite the e-mail hipster. The Internet was a new and fascinating place, capable of bringing us news, forwarded jokes, and information from all over the world.
This snapshot of the Internet, as it was in 1998 with its simple email and browser capabilities, is still what many old people think the Internet is and should be. I will call it the OlderNet for the sake of this post. With the boom in technological advancement over the past decade or so, these Silver Surfers are having trouble staying on the wave. However, as they approach a whopping 1/3 of the active users on the Internet, they are too just hard to ignore. As an Internet marketer and social media researcher, it is of huge importance that I understand and cater to their paradigm. Let’s take a look:
Cognitive lock-in, a psychological term for the idioms “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” plagues their generation. They became comfortable with the OlderNet. It worked just fine. Now there are blogs, RSS feeds, social networks, streaming videos, and other advancements that make the acquisition and distribution of information faster and simpler.
But that doesn’t matter. The theory of cognitive lock-in suggests that, despite logic, these old farts will prefer to do things the old way even if there are new and objectively ‘better” ways of doing the same thing. We are all guilty of this to a degree. Everybody, regardless of age or gender, will exhibit signs of attachment to past successful behavior. This is the crux of building and maintaining a brand image, and marketers know this. Once they hook you, it is easy sailing. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything other than Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Heinz Ketchup, or Chef Boyardee soups in my life. Sure, there are probably better soups than Beefaroni, but I don’t really care, Beefaroni has always gotten the job done.
But here is the kicker…why are the generations below our beloved Silver Surfers not stuck in a state of cognitive lock-in when it comes to technology? The younger generations have embraced Web 2.0’s social networks, wiki’s, video streaming sites, blogs, and forums. However, the majority of Silver Surfers are still fine snacking on the OlderNet’s digital Beefaroni. If we rewind back to the story of my dad trying to figure out AOL (which, btw, my parents still refer to the Internet as “AOL”), I think it will shed light on the root of the problem:
They are afraid of technology.
There, I said it! Bin-Laden, identity thieves, and the Poltergeist are lurking behind every corner, waiting for them to make that fatal click. Meanwhile, the younger generations are willing to press any button, move any file, and sign up for random sites because all because we were introduced to advanced technology at an age where curiosity outweighed caution. If we pressed too many buttons, we’d just reboot. If that didn’t work, then we would reboot again, or hit it, or blow on it. We didn’t care; the computer was our slave, not the other way around. By using this trial-and-error mentality toward technology and computers, we began to pick up on patterns, and actually figured out how and why the computer did what it did. It was not magical, it was not out to get us, and it was certainly not perfect. It is this mentality that continues to encourage younger generations to explore the current and evolving trends of the web.
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to change the way the Silver Surfers behave. The old idioms have withstood the test of time for a reason. Sure, not EVERY old fart is afraid, and there are hundreds of brave ones signing up for Facebook every day. And yes, they are awkward and unwanted but you still have to respect them for trying.
So I propose a roast. Help share your favorite Silver Surfer anecdotes, commonalities, and pet peeves. I am sure you can think of something. And to any old people that happened to find this, I encourage you to defend yourself. Happy surfing!
Forrest Whaling is an Account Manager at Location3 Media, a full service Digital Marketing Agency in Denver, CO. To read more interesting articles, visit their ExpertSEM blog. If you would like Forrest to write for your blog, please leave your request in the comments or visit MyBlogGuest.com (username Fgump910).
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