Gotta face the truth: We will never understand--or accept--all the subtleties of social media. There is a generation gap. Not that we don't have Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts. StumbleUpon, anyone?
The gap comes in the way we use those sites and the way our adult children--and their children--do. I'm not talking about the teen-like behavior of letting it all hang out there on the ether--the stupid pranks played on friends, the rowdy behavior at beer parties, the unfortunate experiments with illegal substances, all the stuff we know shouldn't be up there for future employers (or even us) to read. Stuff we may even warn our emerging adults or grandchildren about.
What I'm talking about are subtle offenses as we stay in touch via the Internet. To judge by the advice columns, a lot of us get really upset over our adult children or their children sending us an email thank you note instead of penning one on paper. Personally, I think we just have to get over it and be glad we got any acknowledgement at all. What's the big difference between pen/paper and a txt message or an email--or even a Facebook acknowledgement? A thanks is a thanks.
But breaches of etiquette can be trickier than a thank you note. A recent writer to Philip Galanes Social qs in the New York Times wrote about a young man in his early 20s who posted his father's death on his Facebook page and announced it via Twitter to his friends and followers. The young man's mother--who was the father's ex wife--was appalled. So, how serious a breach of etiquette was it?
Galanes agreed that Facebook and Twitter are "too chilly for sharing tragedies with our nearest and dearest. Not to mention that these posts would be sandwiched between gags by Jimmy Fallon and clips of Honey Boo Boo." Social media, he suggests, is better suited to spreading the word to workaday pals.
That said, Galanes faces reality. "It’s only natural that he would turn to his comfort zone in a time of grief. For you and me and others north of 32, that would almost certainly involve a telephone. But for your son, who probably picks up the phone to speak rarely, if ever, his impulse would be to text and tweet and post his sad news on Facebook. There is little use in bemoaning our changing times. I just hope we all find what we need in our dark hours."
Just to put the "changing times" in perspective. A recent Pew survey on the use of social media in political life, found 60 percent of American adults use either social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter; 66 percent of those social media users--or 39 percent of all American adults--have used social media to post their thoughts about civic and political issues, react to others' postings, press friends to act on issues and vote, follow candidates, ‘like' and link to others' content, and belong to groups formed on social networking sites.
That being the case, is it any wonder that young adults who grew up on Twitter and Facebook would use it not just for civic statements but to express other near-to-their-heart sentiments and a thanks to their parents or gramps.