I'm not old, am I? Not that I'd have a problem if I were properly old, i.e. 90, but I'm barely forty and in my head I'm still really young. My body's ticking along, doing what it's supposed to do. I have small children. I listen to music that's in the charts. I even know the words - some of them, anyway. I have a Twitter account - okay, I don't use it, but I still have one, just in case I felt the need to summarise the minutiae of my daily existence in 140 characters (but, obviously, this sentence alone shows you that this is something I would most likely be incapable of.) Yet somehow a rift has emerged between me and the people coming behind me and it's social-media based. I think I've figured out what it is.
First off, I like Facebook - even if Mark Zuckerberg knows more about me than I probably do - and I even have two accounts, for my Irish and German lives respectively. But certain aspects of it are beyond me: it serves as a means of frightening the bejabbers out of a person. I mean, I never realised there were so many things just waiting to kill me till I joined Facebook. There I was, just raising my children and minding my own business, then suddenly, I am made aware - by way of badly-punctuated memes - that I am slathering them in carcinogenics on a daily basis. Suncream! Fabric conditioner! Water!!! See, I thought I was feeding my children but instead I am stuffing them with chemicals and plastic which will render them one-eyed, senseless and impotent. Instead of going out to work to pay for our mortgage, I should be at home scrubbing my counter-tops with baking soda and vinegar, making bread from wheat I grew in my flowerbeds, dunged only with the contents of our loo.
The stress is immense.
The most disturbing thing about Facebook - from the point of view of my rapid ageing - is the marked difference between me and my little brother's generation. My youngest brother was born when I was eighteen: he could've been my son (and was, to our mutual annoyance, often mistaken thus). In social media terms, he is an entire generation - which accounts for millennia and several billion light-years - away from me. I spent my youth trying to avoid being photographed. In my day, it was considered the sign of successful teenagerdom if you managed to spend the decade without your likeness being captured on film in any form. God knows, there are thousands of Irish households with family photos devoid of teenage offspring. But this generation - this generation delights in taking photos of themselves! They do it constantly and everywhere! Social media are splattered with photos of young ones pouting and posing and making funny shapes with their fingers into the lens of their mobile phone - hundreds of photos, readers, hundreds! (And mobile phones, people! Mobile phones!!! Remember when you had 36 photos on your film and you thought carefully before you pressed the button of your camera? Uh-huh.) Young people in need of a hair cut, wearing Granddad glasses and excessive make up, duck-bumming in front of national monuments, natural phenomena and nameless other objects. When they're not doing that, they're trying to get as many people behind the lens as possible, creating a photographic equivalent of the clown car at a circus: pile in a whole heap of friends Having Fun and Being Awesome and post it on social media so the three people who haven't managed to squash into your picture will know that they weren't there when fun was had. People can't eat food any more without photographing it. No one can go anywhere without tagging themselves (and I might mention that in my world, farmers tagged cattle so they could find them if they wandered off. Now we're tagging ourselves. Good grief.) It's enough to give old farts like me palpitations.
And I am a proverbial old fart because lots of people much older than I are hip to the new media.The Queen, Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama and even the Pope are not averse to photo-bombing or selfies (see how casually I bandy about these new words, all confident-like?) Oh, dear. That's all I can say to that. I don't think the Internet is ready for my mug: there's been enough turmoil in the world without adding my visage to the mix.