Have you ever tried to introduce an elderly relative to technology?
I love my dad. He’s a great dad. He’s done more than most fathers would to support his son, working tirelessly to provide me and my siblings with a decent upbringing. And he’s a nice bloke, to boot. But I also hate him.
Why? Because he is causing me considerable social embarrassment – and not just in the normal dad ways (dancing at weddings, humiliating anecdotes, bad jokes, taste in music). You see my old man is light years ahead of me when it comes to something all young people should be better at than their parents: the internet. My dad is one of the original geeks. While I was in short trousers he was in long flares, a floral shirt and sideburns.
And what was he doing in this unfashionable attire? Programming computers at a time when these machines were not sitting on desks, but in university departments. Great long rows of valves and – for all I know – pistons. It was so long ago they were probably powered by donkeys. And, as soon as these mechanised brains started shrinking, he started bringing them home. They clogged up the house. For a while I was using one as a den.
But this was just the beginning. Now, in his dotage, he’s built his own website (for his croquet club, no less) and follows his offspring on Twitter. Yes, Twitter. My dad is on Twitter. I was excited at first. After all, I wanted him to know what I was up to. A bit. To an extent. Then I began to worry. While friends were happily tweeting on their various exploits I fell silent. You see, my dad was listening.
And I am not alone. My father is one of millions of old folk who are ‘web savvy’. It’s bad enough when your friends gang up and post the most horrifyingly awful photos of you on Facebook. But imagine the damage your parents can do. Is it not the right of every mother in the world to bring out the most humiliating snaps when a boyfriend/girlfriend is first introduced? Now picture what your dear old ma’s contribution to Facebook might look like.
This is happening right now. Thousands, if not millions, of perfectly respectable young’uns are having their lives turned upside down by the presence of their parents in cyberworld. What they once considered to be their domain has turned into the equivalent of mum and dad’s sitting room on a Sunday evening. And, just as there are things one does not say in front of one’s parents in their home, so it will be on the various social media sites we all populate. And what are you to do if your mother’s friend requests you? If your father follows you?
Perhaps the future isn’t quite so bright. Perhaps, indeed, it’s grey.