One of the detractions around social media, social networking and blogging etc is that there are plenty of people in the ‘real world’ who don’t give a monkeys about the internet.
Which may well be true, but in addition to the somewhat reasonable 140 million+ active users on Facebook, this holiday season emphasised how the world is changing on a personal level – namely the relationship between an online geek (me), and his almost technophobe parents.
It started pre-Christmas, when my folks replaced their aging desktop with a shiny new laptop and signed up for broadband. (For reference, the desktop must be about 10 years old, and they were still on dial-up!)
Then they started asking me to find albums by relatively niche Irish folk artists on Amazon. And my mother decided to borrow Tribes – which is promising as she completed a degree in sociology in her spare time a few years ago with marks I’ll always be proud and envious of!
But Christmas really was The Tipping Point.
For starters, their gift to me was a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success.
The reasons were simple:
1. They already have a hotmail email account, and although there might be better IM clients, not only is Windows Live Messenger pretty simple and easy to use, but enough people use it that I wouldn’t be sole technical support.
The main reason is that it means they can see their grandson on webcam whenever we’re online.
2. Gmail is intended to be a starting point for them to hopefully move to Google Calendar, Google Docs etc.
The main reason is that it means I can share my calendar so we can all schedule our lives and events without playing telephone tennis for days and weeks beforehand. Facebook might also be useful, but that’s for Phase 2!
3. Flickr is a nice way to start seeing the value of sharing images, tagging, etc.
But the main thing is that my dad has always had an artistic side which is always underexploited, and has always be into photography. Plus they can see ‘family only’ images of the family.
We’ve already had a couple of webcam enabled chats over IM, and I’m hoping it’ll encourage them to explore and try other new ways to share and communicate with friends and family. I’m certainly past the age of worrying that connecting with my parents might make me seem less cool, or that they’d see an inappropriate picture or comment – at my age, the chances to behave inappropriately are frustratingly rare!