A Work In Progress. Period.
A writer whose work I admire has been mildly griping lately about some of his friends. He’s not a griping kind of guy, and this is more of an observation on his part with some attitude lightly sprinkled on top.
I don’t know any of these people. I just read.
He’s older than I am, by a few years. I’ll say he’s 67. I’ve been reading him for nearly 20 years, although we’re not friends and have never met. So I have some sense of his thinking.
And this recent griping has to do with friends of his—one assumes around the same age—who as they get older are now focusing a lot on the old part. There’s been some morbid talk about mutual acquaintances and other irritating things, and this writer wants none of that. He’s still doing the kind of work he’s always done, and he sees no reason to change or accept changes he doesn’t care for.
So. Some of this I understand. I get irritated at friends and their ways all the time now. It’s the nature of social media, and it feels like it might be the nature of age cohorts, too. I look to my contemporaries for signs of inappropriate aging all the time.
On the other hand, this guy has had two major surgeries in the past decade or so. They were unremarkable and he never complained, just treated them as minor inconveniences to be dealt with. Good for him. I admire this.
But they sure seemed to me to be related to age, and wear, so I do wonder if there’s a little graveyard whistling going on. Maybe he doesn’t care for all the God I’m old! talk because he has some concerns. I have absolutely no idea and can’t really speculate more than this. He seems fine and I like his attitude, generally.
It just reminds me that the tendency to bury one’s head in the sand about certain things is counterproductive. The only physical signs of aging that bother me at all have to do with my senses, my eyesight and hearing. It’s annoying, this slow deterioration that feels undeserved, but I can’t ignore it.
And I can’t ignore what I might be like in 10 years. I have to be proactive and aggressive, and I’m pretty sure I will be, and still I can’t control this. So I have to focus mostly on attitude, and that’s why I’m interested in how others are adjusting to inevitabilities.
I heard a couple of conversations recently, interviews with interesting people, that are driving a lot of this. I haven’t been able to nail it down yet, and I’m not trying to work it out here. It has to do with communication, and how different age groups approach it.
A lot of this involves attempts at humor, on my part. There’s nothing academic about this. I’m just trying to make jokes. My observations still count, I think. Doesn’t matter.
A tiny observation, but one my wife and I have been having fun with lately, is how people of a certain age respond online, or at least in text messaging. This wasn’t inspired by listening to those conversations, but they confirmed what we’d been joking about.
And it’s so small! Just a tiny piece of our modern puzzle, but it’s real and fascinating to me. You know all about it, too, or I suspect you do.
I want to note that the period is my favorite punctuation mark, or the one I find the most flexible. I do love a full stop in the right place. You’d think it would be the semicolon, but nope.
A period is problematic, though. This is what I mean about you knowing about this. There’ve been lots of stories and commentaries. In a text message or even Facebook comment, a period carries a huge amount of weight.
Let’s say I post a photo. Someone responds to it positively. Their comment? Nice.
There’s no inflection, no wink, no body language, no eyebrow raising, nothing to illuminate or enlighten. Just Nice.
It’s hard to see, written in a space like this, maybe. As a Facebook comment, it jumps out as terse, and rude, really. It’s just a thing. Why does using all caps bother us, feel like shouting? Because all caps have been used for emphasis for a long time, and since we’ve been online it’s become standardized.
I stopped following an Instagram feed from a celebrity, someone who seems very nice and posted completely normal and fun photos, because she insisted on writing captions in all caps. Eventually she felt the need to respond, and told her audience that she WASN’T SHOUTING SHE JUST LIKED ALL CAPS.
Sorry. It’s still shouting. You don’t get to choose how people respond.
Anyway, this is so obviously delimited by age it’s not worth mentioning. No one under 60, I’m guessing, is ever going to use all caps inappropriately. Maybe it’s under 70, but it’s a sign and it’s telltale. And same thing with the other punctuation quirks that suddenly seem so powerful. I wouldn’t have been caught dead using an exclamation mark before text messaging. Now it’s necessary, it feels like, or else everything looks like Nice.
It’s not that younger people don’t do odd things in terms of communicating. I’m just picking on my tribe here. It’s more fun, and there are more jokes.
It’s looking a little Foxworthy at the moment, but it won’t end up as a You may be an old person if... I’ll either write it or not, but the jokes are still waiting.
If you share something at least once a day on Facebook, you’re old. If what you mostly share are graphics with some fake aphorism about waking up with sunlight in your smile, etc., you’re definitely old. If you share clickbait articles about how life was better and kids were more polite back in the olden days, I don’t even need to comment.
If you post private messages on public pages...
If you use more than five emojis on a routine basis...(we figure you’ve just discovered them)
If you abbreviate normal words into cld and shld and yr and tho—when there’s no character limit to speak of anymore—...
And so on. I can’t really go there, because it would start to feel mean and obnoxious, and also because I can’t seem to persuade people that when I make general comments, it’s not about them specifically. That bothers me a lot lately. Most of the behavior I notice out in the world, and in the digital world, is anonymous pretty much by definition; if I know who you are, I tend to go specific quickly and move away from generalizations. I’m probably not thinking of you. I may be thinking of your friends, who drop in on your feed and make me notice. Sigh.
All of this, also, is mostly about my own behavior, and signs to look for. I don’t mind getting older. I want to avoid getting old, and the difference is where I go to find jokes, and as I said, that’s all I’m doing. It’s not about you.