This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.
On January 4 at 9:46 p.m., I posted this message to Facebook:
“Vegas tomorrow. Who’s in?”
The next morning, before I settled into the long drive, I stopped in to my local coffee shop. Ashley, who works there and knows my kids’ names, asked, “Your usual?” And then added, “Heading off to Vegas, huh?” She’d seen my status update.
Some may find this intimacy alarming. I found it oddly comforting. I bet this is what it was like for my grandparents, in a time when communities were close-knit; when someone knew if you were going on a trip or noticed if you didn’t show up somewhere. But this is just one of many parallels between our behaviors today and those of our grandparents. Here are a few more ways I think that social media has bridged these generations, culturally speaking.
The Return of the Slide Show
Our grandparents celebrated travel. Being worldly and seeing things that others hadn’t was a privilege. It opened your eyes to the world and that knowledge made you a more enriched person. But you also shared those stories with your friends and relatives. To go, see things, and then come back home and share your observations through pictures and stories — that was part of the experience. I can still remember sitting next to that slide carousel.
Two years ago, I went to Japan for a few weeks by myself. I logged all my experiences on a Posterous site for my friends and family to see. My parents’ generation never did this. They just kind of disappeared for a while, then came home. But it is remarkably similar to the behavior of my grandparents, who wanted to tell the stories and bestow their knowledge to anyone who’d listen.
The Return of Family Bonding
Our grandparents talked with their parents. Family dinners were an essential part of life, not to mention ball games, religious discussions, family outings and just plain hanging out on the porch. But the culture of our parents’ generation became somewhat more escapist; James Dean, punk rock, The Outsiders, TV dinners, video games, and yes, even the Internet.
But, a good portion of our grandparents’ sensibilities are back today, thanks to social media.
Kids aren’t blocking their parents from their Facebook profiles — well, OK, some are, but not all of them. Teens are texting their parents about their comings and goings. And although it looks a whole lot different than the Cleavers’ family dinner, in a strange way the book is wider open today than it has been in 100 years. Because of blogging, tweeting, checking in and status updating, the lock is off the diary.
Additionally, emotions are more accepted. Pain more vocalized. I know someone on Facebook who is dealing with cancer and posts regularly about that for all her friends and family to see. We are rediscovering what we once knew inherently; community makes us less lonely.
The Return of Being a Regular
Our grandparents didn’t frequent a lot of places. They had less to choose from, but they also understood the symbiosis of the customer/retailer relationship. I had one older relative who went to the same restaurant so much they named a sandwich after him. That’s old school, right? Maybe more new school than we realize.
Isn’t this what we’re doing with location applications like Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla? Yesteryear’s sandwich naming is today’s Mayor’s Badge. We’re being rewarded for our patronage in ways reminiscent of the days when you could put something on a tab, and the owner knew your name; when frequent patrons got the best seats in the house.
If I “Like” your organization, I become part of your community; privy to your deals and offers. That’s the kind of preferential treatment that used to be a part of daily life. And, not coincidentally, restaurants are probably doing some of the most interesting things with social media today.
And, really, word-of-mouth is the oldest form of marketing. Social media often reflects on the tools, but it’s our opinions, spoken aloud, which are the true story — and fuel — in this medium. I’m as encouraged and excited today with where technology is leading us as I was the first time I saw my Grandpa Joe turn on that slide carousel. In a funny commentary on how he saw the world changing, he used to tell me, “There’s only two of us left. And I’m not sure about you.”
I think he’d like where we’re going.
Where do you see social media rekindling the values of previous generations? Let us know in the comments.
Nice article about present day grandparents like me using Facebook, Twitter and email to keep in contact with our children. Hey, even my grandkids have emailed me and some are on Facebook. I think it's great because being separated by a few thousand miles does not stop us from being intimate and acknowledging our love for one another. What do you think?