Geriatric Surfers - Should We Pull The Plug?This is a guest post by Hal Brown, in response to a previously published one (Yes, I love listening to all types of opinions here).

The two things most difficult to write are humor and satire. Humor writing can be targeted to a specific audience, in which case not everyone is expected to get the joke. Broad-based humor is not so forgiving; Invariably someone will be offended. In other words, you might get away with calling obese people fat if your audience is skinny, just don’t make a habit of saying things like that in public.

Satire is the most difficult of all things to write. The target is most specific and some people will be offended. That’s life. The degree of resentment that can be caused is in direct correlation to the writer’s talent for satire. Age has a lot to do with this as well; parents don’t like kids to satirize life, especially when the kids have not lived long enough to have the wisdom that comes with age.

Attacking an entire generation as “doomed”, “too old to give a damn” is not satire, or “tongue in cheek.” Accusations of Cognitive lock-in (My generation called this the RC factor, resistance to change) is anything but objective – it is an indictment of baby-boomers stuck in some fixed time period, unable to comprehend technology. I don’t believe this is true.

Regardless of age, change is not an easy thing to accept. But to say, “…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” is to pigeon-hole the people who made it possible to write this as afflicted with dementia. Our kids generation may be using the technology, but we invented it.

Until a couple of years ago I owned a computer company. Besides consulting, designing and implementing networks in the health-care industry, I taught employees basic computer skills. Two aspects of this business always held true: Interest in learning and general ability to learn. Age was never a factor.

I’m not going to say that age has no bearing on using the Internet. Of course it does. Conversely, the ability to thumb an iPhone to text, or use social networking sites does not make a technology expert. Regardless of age, most people do not know how to effectively use Facebook or Twitter – 80% of the population doesn’t know what a web browser is.

At some point all of us will use some part of technology we don’t understand. Most of us drive cars – how many embedded systems are in the average car made today? Who cares, we drive it and that’s all we need to know. Us old farts may look stupid to youngsters, but consider how you look to us.

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  1. My 3 year old daughter knows her way around both her parents iPhones.
    My mother at 70+ is a devoted user of Firefox (as she said ‘you’d think Microsoft would be able to make a browser that wasn’t so slow’) and Skype…
    and yet I know people in their 40’s who ‘don’t do computers’… don’t want to engage in life IMO.
    Like many things, it’s not age that separates people, it’s IQ and approach.
    Pull the plug on IE6 users by all means… but don’t assume they’ll all be old… but, yes – they will be lazy and low on the IQ scale.

  2. @Gidseo

    LOL my 1-year old daughter is better at hubby’s iPhone than me 🙂

  3. Hey Hal,

    Great post! I am glad you decided to speak for the older generations reading this site. I think they needed some defense. The fact that you have something posted on an SEO blog is evidence enough that not all Silver Surfers are e-literate 🙂

    I would like to address a few things:

    First, I would like to defend my piece as entirely satirical. Satire is “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn” (yeah…I Googled it, thanks Merriam Webster). It is also tongue-in-cheek, meaning that the ridicule and scorn is not meant to be taken seriously. You are not “doomed”, and certainly don’t munch on “digital Beefaroni”. It was not meant to be taken literally. I would really like to drive that point home.

    With that aside, I enjoyed the post, and I like hearing a counter-argument.

    Question, you mention teaching people “basic computer skills” and age not being a factor. What skills were these exactly? I never argued against age and the inability to grasp “basic” computer skills. Just curious.

    I like the comment about the car having embedded systems. Definitely some truth to that. I don’t know or care about some of the stuff in my car. So yeah…it’s point A to point B for me too. However, its a hard comparison because the internet is so unique. I began thinking of contacting GM…If cars knew your favorite spots (RSS Feeds), stalked and honked at other cars (Facebook), and posted videos of their exploits (Youtube), I would probably be all over that. Lord knows that Mapquest (GPS) was a huge hit!

    I am sure I will be a Silver Surfer before too long. My kids will probably think I don’t know anything, and I’ll retort “I was tweeting before you were a fetus…” and all that jazz too.

    Ending thought – While this is not the exact demographic I describe…it was funny to learn that the British are doing something to remedy the situation:

  4. Hal Brown says:

    Hello Forrest,

    Thanks for the comment, and the compliment. Generation gaps are nothing new – here is a favorite quote by Mark Twain.

    “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”

    I understand where you would want to defend your post about silver surfers. And I believe you have a good heart, you didn’t set out to do anything except write a piece of satirical work. Like you, I have to stand on principle, satire is hard to write.
    I’ve noticed this a lot with young people. Age, to some degree, effects how we perceive humor. What some young people see as funny, my generation may think absurd. And vice versa. Suggestion. Let’s agree to disagree about satire and humor.

    The ‘basic computer skills’ I taught were how to use Windows. The classes were small, maybe 15 or so people. Even then I was older than most of them. The age range was early twenties to 50 plus years. The most difficult were the 30ish people. Even though they had grown up with computers they had no interest. Maybe they had no interest because they had grown up with computers.

    Thanks for your good manners and being gracious enough to respond with courtesy. I respect that in anyone. And thanks for the link. I’ll check that out as soon as possible.

  5. Debbie Young says:

    Thanks for taking the time to pen a great rebuttal. So many of us read thought provoking blogs with lots of controversial topics and all we do is mutter to our dogs or computer screens.
    I think if you are young you just grow up with technology. If you are older, it is exciting to learn something new. If you are middle aged it is something that we were made to learn, like it or not, hence our indifference.

  6. Bryce Berkowski says:

    I agree with the 80% of people not knowing what a web browser is. I had a client this week not know what EXCEL was and what screen resolution meant. I guess us that spends our entire day on the web are so use to the terms.

    Good Post and I’m a big fan of the blog!

  7. The computer is only a tool ….. let’s face it, the vast majority of people only use the bits they need to use – most of the workings never get a work out.

    [I’m speaking as a blogger [rubbish] and Twitterer [boring] of an age when really I should know better – tee hee]

  8. I personally like your post ; you have shared good insights and experiences. Keep it up. Nice work, thanks for sharing such an informative ideas.

  9. I enjoyed this piece. Although not a humor writer, I am a writer … class nontheless. In person I’m a fool out a bit awkward as Star Trek “look” of laughter throughout the galaxy. I love people who move through life with eyes and heart continually questioning internal tickle and spread around as if you can not hold. That’s me too. Although they tend to be a serious writer I do occasionally throw a tornado rib. I like your dry wit superimposed with its “attempt to counterfeit” (LOL) in a serious tone. You may not consider to do that, but it does and it’s great! It’s great fun and I relate to him. Although this is a very helpful article for any writer, humorous or not, for me I still find it funny. Wit is mixed with the serious tone that cracks me up. It gives the reader the impression that they are unrelated to any attempt at humor. It’s hard to explain, but it sure works and I like it. Thanks for sharing. And I totally agree with REWRITE. I think that’s what writing is all about.

  10. Hal Brown says:

    Thanks to all who have commented on this. As you see, I wrote this back in February, and I’ve missed some comments since then.
    Taking time to leave your feedback, your thoughts about the subject is the greatest reward a writer can get. We don’t write in a void – writers need readers. Otherwise what is the point, personal journals excepted of course.
    Thank you.

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