Life begins at…

18 Jun

Thanks to everyone who got in touch about my Stop! Twitter time…blog where I spoke about the whole “I don’t have time” response to social media.

Well, this time, I want to tackle another potential misconception – needing to be of a certain generation to get truly digital.

I had a great question posted on my social network asking “Does ageism exist in cyber space or alternatively does it bring with it an aspect of age egalitarianism not to be found in “the real world?”

A great question and observation – so, I thought I’d check it out.

In my Born again digital blog, I stunned myself as a 30 something as to how digital I actually was. I looked around at my workmates of similar age and older – and, yep, the majority are all texting, blackberrying, laptopping, blogging and even twittering. Ok, they have an excuse, they’re all working in the communications and entertainment industry.

So, I looked further afield – while staying close to home. Who better to choose than my wonderful mum, Annie?

Mum retired several years ago and lives in a peaceful village in Dorset. She spends her days producing wonderful botanical water colours while indulging in her amazing garden.

I’m one of five children and we’re all really close to mum and keep in regular contact. What I’ve noticed is that, totally unprompted, over the years, mum has taken on the digital world and got herself a mobile, started texting and is now regularly emailing, uploading digital photos etc etc. I’ve helped from time to time, but it’s been totally voluntary as she realised the benefits of using the various tools to keep in touch.

Over the past few years, she’s also realised how much she’s wanted to share some of her memories. In her words…”We all have a wealth of experiences – especially when you reach my age, and people totally underestimate how interesting and useful stories can be to other people. I wanted to motivate my friends and neighbours to also write about their experiences – I can’t do that without trying it out myself.”

So, what mum’s been doing is writing short pieces for various local publications – and those pieces are truly beautiful. So beautiful, that I thought – wow mum, you’ve got to write a blog! So, we’ve both worked together on getting one of these beautiful pieces turned into a blog. My father’s return is a memory of mum’s childhood 63 years ago – I won’t spoil it as it’s an amazing read so please do spare a few moments.

It’s a massive opportunity for mum to share her memories – whilst also helping to motivate her friends and neighbours to do the same. It didn’t take much to convince mum – and, I just know she’ll start to feel the reward of sharing with the wider world, gaining friends along the way who are inspired to share as mum has done.

So, there’s a fantastic example of there being no limits in terms of age, or even skillset for that matter.

Looking at other great examples, there’s now a huge population of ‘silver surfers’ out there (a term I’m not keen on I have to say) happily surfing, texting and generally being digital. The whole online dating/friend finding thing is also massive with the older generation – the ability to find friends and company online has a huge appeal as it’s opened doors that were otherwise closed through various constraints.

So, hopefully, I’ve given my view on: “Does ageism exist in cyber space or alternatively does it bring with it an aspect of age egalitarianism not to be found in “the real world?”. And, what a wonderful thing hey?!

So, what’s this got to do with how we communicate in the workplace?

Well, these examples show that people are choosing different ways to communicate – the best ways for them to find friends, stay in touch, indulge hobbies etc – no matter what their age or skillset is.

In my view, as internal communicators, we should be providing those choices too. We can no longer afford to assume the ‘one size fits all’ approach when communicating in the workplace. AND, very importantly, we mustn’t force or impose these tools on anyone.

By providing a variety of tools, everyone gets a choice of the best and preferred way to learn and communicate. And, if these tools are two-way (which they should be), they get the opportunity to start a dialogue – to respond, react and work collaboratively with friends and colleagues.

I guess my main point in all of this is that we should never assume people are too old/too young, don’t/do have the time, will love/hate social media and so on. It’s about providing the tools for people to use as they wish and not make assumptions nor force anything upon them.

If something works well, it will catch on and spread like wildfire through word of mouth. But by allowing the choice, you’re allowing people to catch on in their own time and in their own way – massively improving your chances of success.

I’d love to hear from you on any examples you’ve come across that supports this view.

And, do check out what my mum’s up to. She’ll be blogging regularly and, I’m sure after your first read, you’ll be hooked.

Thanks
Abi

PS. Mum’s recently gone digital in her car and now is the proud owner of Jane – her very own satellite navigation to guide her through the Dorset countryside! I’m now talking her through the wonders of ebay!

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