I recently had a conversation with a Millennial about the need to look people in the eye when speaking to them. She had express frustration over an incident with her parents where during the course of a conversation they had asked that she put her phone down and listen to them. She replied that she was listening and continued with what she was doing on her phone. This miscommunication was fraught with frustration on both sides. The parents felt disrespected and ignored while the Millennial couldn’t understand why her parents were angry. She could multi-task and was, in fact, listening to her parents while at the same time carrying on a Twitter dialogue, checking facebook, and posting on Instagram. In an attempt to answer the question of why her parents were angry, I came to the realization that, to borrow from respected author John Gray, parents are from Earth and children are from Pluto.
My foray into the Twittersphere was about as successful as one could expect from a fifty-something grandmother. I am sure there are those of my generation who Tweet happily all day long, but I am not one of those. I signed up for a Twitter account about two years ago and never used it until recently, and was unaware that I could use it from my home computer, believing that it was a smartphone app only.
When a class assignment required me to use Twitter I was excited, I would finally figure out how to use it. Instead, I found Twitter to be inexplicable and daunting. I spent weeks monitoring every Twitter notification that came across my phone. Confusion grew as I tried in vain to discover the lure of this social media site. None of the tweets shook my world or made me want to make a difference. The amazing thing was the number of tweets one person could tweet in one day. What do these people do that allows them to tweet almost constantly? I attempted to tweet myself but received no responses, or twitterings, or likes, or whatever it is that is supposed to happen when you tweet.
Three months into the semester and I had nothing to show for my Twitter research except frustration and an aversion to tweeting. Sitting with one of my sons at a local eating establishment, I asked him what I was doing wrong. Was my tweet broken? Was I a dysfunctional tweeter? Maybe I had a tweet disorder? Why wasn’t anyone responding to my Twitterings?
“Twitterings?” my son laughed. “Tweets Mom, they are called tweets.” My sons asked what I was hashtagging.
“Hashtagging?” I asked.
“Mom, you have to use a hashtag at the end of your tweet. Find something popular that is related to your tweet and use that hashtag.”
“Hashtag?” I again queried.
“What do you want to tweet?”
“I don’t know.”
My son sighed, “What have you tweeted?”
“I tweeted a picture of the dog when we adopted her.”
“Okay, so what did you hashtag?”
I just shook my head, the child was, after all, talking gibberish.
“Mom,” he sighed. “Give me your phone.” I handed over my phone feeling like a disobedient child in front of the principal. My son looked at my Twitter account and then at me, and then repeated that a few more time all the while shaking his head.
“Mom, you have two followers and one is a bot.”
“A bot?” I questioned. Great, I had been reduced to two syllable sentences.
“ A bot Mom, they are not real. You know, like spam. No one sees your tweets because you aren’t using hashtags. Give it a try, I will walk you through it.”
So I took a picture of my dessert and tweeted it, adding what I felt were appropriate hashtags, as my son took me step by step through it. I handed my phone back to my son, feeling quite proud of myself.
My son looked at my tweet. I swear, if he rolled his eyes any harder they might stay that way. He was quickly becoming my least favorite offspring.
“Mom, maybe Twitter isn’t for you. You should stick to facebook and taking silly selfies with Snapchat, you are good at that.” This was said with all seriousness.
“What’s wrong with what I tweeted?” I asked.
“Well, it’s your use of hashtags mom. You don’t punctuate them, it’s all one word like hashtag sweet treat with no spaces. It’s ok, really. You don’t have to use every social media site you know.”
“It’s for a class” I replied, feeling like a complete and utter social media failure. “Hey, maybe you could follow me and I will follow you, and I can write something about that!” The idea had merit, I could do something with this. My son was less than enthusiastic,“Yeah, I don’t think so Mom, no offense but, well we spend a lot of time together now you know, and I kind of like a bit of well, privacy I guess. You can look at my account, I don’t have anything on there to be ashamed of but well, these are my friends. You understand, don’t you? Hey, at least we are friends on facebook. That’s a good thing, right?”
As I said at the beginning, parents are from Earth and children are from Pluto. When it comes to using this social media technology, our children are the masters. We adults can facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, enough to get by but we will never, ever, be able to carry on multiple conversations while walking across the street, and checking our various social media sites without doing a faceplant or quite possibly being hit by a bus. Let’s face it, most of us can’t even rub our tummies while patting our heads. So in regards to social media and multitasking, don’t do it, and if you have to do it then I wish you Happy Twittering.