It occurred to me recently that the music I listen to is older than many of the people I work with. Yep, I’m a boomer. And while my taste in pop songs is – let’s call it nostalgic – I like to think of myself as someone open to new ideas and change.
Especially on the social media front. It still surprises that my generation and Gen-X have been so resistant to adapt to the digital landscape.
That hit home when I watched the premiere of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, which featured one of my favourite comics – the veteran of standup, a well-referenced sitcom and now the online screen with his very mobile series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee - ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the funny and boomerish, Jerry Seinfeld.
The show started traditionally with Fallon’s monologue and opening bit. Then he introduced Seinfeld, who walked out looking like a pro and launched into his routine.
It was new stuff, and his delivery was sharp and polished, but I was surprised by what the great Mr. S. was talking about.
Have boomers become their parents?
The gist of the material was: ‘What’s with the kids these days? They’ve all got these phones and never use them to make a call… I just don’t get it…’
Of course it was more entertaining than that.
But watching it, I was struck by two things:
- Jerry Seinfeld appeals to his aging generation, that is, boomers – and he’s now become what I would call a Mom and Pop comic, in the same way cigar-chomping Alan King was one of those kinds of performers when I was growing up. I always found King funny, but didn’t really relate to his humor.
- The essence of Seinfeld’s material was similar to King’s ‘I-don’t-get-young-people’ schtick. It was a little patronizing, in the same way an adult looks at a child doing something, shakes their head, and smiles a bemused smile that means, ‘the kid doesn’t know anything, just wait till they’ve been around as long as I have, then they’ll see…’
And it dawned on me…
Boomers react to social media the way their parents reacted to rock music.
Boomers need a guide
Many just don’t know what to make of social media, think of it as a lot of useless noise (and in many ways, it is), and hope it will just fade away. Or at least that someone will turn down the volume so they aren’t confronted by it all the time!
- Having not grown up with it, boomers view social media as simply too faddish; why bother understanding something if it’s just going to be a flash in the pan?
- It’s uncharted and unfamiliar territory, and too much work to learn something new.
- It’s natural for people to gravitate to what we know and like, and tough to give up on the safe and comfortable. Or, as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons so eloquently put it, boomers are simply ‘hanging on to what they’ve got.’
All of this makes sense. Boomers, like every grown up generation before them, doesn’t see why the world they love has to change and they, in turn, need to alter the way they do things.
Next time you see a boomer express complete disdain for social media, please be gentle.
Remind them phones have uses other than talking, there’s nothing wrong with being connected, and you’re just sharing photos electronically instead of pulling them out of your wallet.
And then suggest that maybe they’ve become that part of their parents they said they would never be.
That might strike more than an air guitar chord.
A version of this post was first published on Spin Sucks.