The generational gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials may not seem that significant, but in reality, it is. Relationships with grandparents have changed over the years due to technology, and for some, it is not in the best way. I interviewed Alvasa on Friday, July 22nd, 2016. She uses Facebook at the bare minimum level. Her grandchildren and some of her children do not call her anymore or make time to be with her. Alvasa finds out most of what is going on in their lives through Facebook. She wanted to learn how to use the platform well because if all she did was watch them, then Alvasa felt like she was not participating in their lives.
Alvasa was eager to learn about Facebook from me because she uses it to keep up with her children and grandchildren, but she is unable to do anything but look at what they post. She did not know how to post things herself, comment on her family’s posts or interact with other people on Facebook. She was unaware of friend requests and when I showed her how to look at them and respond she was happy to see that one of her children had added her on Facebook a long time ago.
Her Facebook was set up by her son a few years ago, but he never taught her how to do anything because he did not know. As a 74-year-old woman, she did not want to learn how to geotag or create pages, but she did want to discover how to communicate with her family.
She learned through our session that she had messages in her inbox dating back to 2013. She did not realize that this was her grandchildren attempting to talk with her in one of the only ways they knew.
The majority of her grandchildren are between the ages of 19 and 35, and they grew up on this platform. Some of them watched it as it evolved into what it is today. Alvasa, on the other hand, did not have the advantage of learning as it developed. She was thrust into the information age and did not know how to navigate.
I helped her with a lot of the basics and even showed her how to react to posts. She asked me why there were little faces next to the post she was reading, and I explained that to like a post before only meant that you appreciated it. That before when someone posted a sorrowful post there were a lot of people that did not want to “like” a sad post, how it felt wrong on some level. The “emoji reacts” were conceptualized because Facebook wanted to give users a better way to “react” to a post rather than a simple “like”. It gave more opportunities to a person to give an opinion. She very quickly understood the concept and was amazed at how versatile Facebook could be.
After talking to her for a while, she mentioned that she has a family reunion coming up, and that is when she meets with her sister. She knew there was a Facebook page with all of the information on it that she needs, but she did not know how to look at this page. I helped her with this as well because as it turned out, she was a part of the page but did not know it. She also learned that her family reunion was not on September 20th but rather August 20th. The change in the date was quite a leap and startling to her. Because this is the first year they are using Facebook, the younger generation knows the dates and what to bring, but for the older generation, it can be significantly harder. She told me that Family reunions are one of the things she loves doing at her age because it gives her the chance to interact with a lot of her family whom she normally doesn’t get the chance. She would have been very upset if she had missed this opportunity to be close with her family only because she did not know how to use the medium that they preferred.
The gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials is larger than we think but it not insurmountable. Baby boomers can learn to use Facebook and other mediums for communication while Millennials can pick up the phone and call their grandparents every once in a while. It would not be a hard thing to do, and it would make their day if they heard the voice of their grandchildren every once in a while. Alvasa appreciated the help that I gave her and she knows that if she ever has any problems in the future that she can call me and ask anytime.