in Social Media

An Internet Guide for Baby Boomers

Amazing, electric InternetsDear Baby Boomers,

It’s time you learn to talk about the Internet intelligently. Seriously. You’re really embarrassing the rest of us every time we hear you say, “The Google” or “all those Facebooks”.

Here’s a quick, but handy guide to get you up to speed with the rest of the planet so you won’t have people staring at you incredulously in meetings. —Thanks in advance, Dave (a Gen-Xer who cares)

“The Google” does not exist
Google is Google. There is no “the” placed before Google. Ever. Same goes for any social network. It’s simply Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. While nothing on the Internet is a physical location, you should use the rules of locations to refer to sites and companies online. After all, you don’t “go to the Macys.” You go to Macy’s. Right?

Internets and Facebooks
Stop pluralizing the names of social networks. You would be horrified if your son or daughter said, “I read Wall Street Journals” or “I drive a Toyotas,” but you feel no shame at all about adding an ‘s’ to the end of a social network. Why? It’s wrong, and you should stop doing it.

Tweeps, not twits

Twitter’s many idioms can be problematic for many. Here is the official list:

  • Twitter: The Web site and company is called Twitter. Again, not “The Twitter” and please do not pluralize it into “The Twitters”
  • Tweet: A message consisting of 140 characters using some form of Twitter is called a tweet, not a twit, twip, twitter and certainly not a twat (Yes, I have heard you use all of these variants. Cringeworthy). The past tense is tweeted.
  • Tweep: Someone who is an active user of Twitter is often called a tweep, not a twit, twat (arguable), Twitterite, Twitz or Twitizen.
  • RT means “retweet” or the act of reposting a tweet by someone else that you like or find useful. You do not write out retweet. Ever. The RT followed by a space, then the Twitter handle of the person who wrote the tweet is sufficient and will code the tweet for you. For example, if I wanted to retweet a post by Chris Brogan, I would start the tweet with RT @chrisbrogan

JPG is not a verb
JPG (originally JPEG) is actually an acronym referring to the Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPG is a file format, but not a verb. Never say, “Can you JPG this for me?” Instead try, “Can you convert this image into a JPG, please?” It is possible that over time, JPG as a verb may become an accepted improper usage (much as Photoshop and Google have become verbs).

Cyber-anything is passé
Only government agencies use cyber as a prefix. The rest of the world stopped using it in the 1980s. If you’re using cyber-anything, you’ll be seen as outdated and not getting it. I am amazed that the military still insists on using cyber, knowing their Gen Y target as well as they do. It’s a holdover and you should let it die a natural death.

What’s the difference between the networks?
Glad you asked. While all of them have overlapping features, here’s the one phrase definition for each one, so you can be a cocktail party intellectual about social networks.

You didn’t go online. You didn’t go anywhere
Finally, let’s talk about “going online”. Boomers and seniors (Silent Generation) seem obsessed with using the term “going online”. As if the act of using their computer to access a site is going on a top secret mission. “Strap me in Helen. I’m going online.” Sorry, pal. You never left your seat. Gen X and below never refer to going online because to us, the Internet is ubiquitous and never need be referred to. It’s as awkward as if you had said, “Well, I’m going to apply electricity to this lamp now.” We know you are. Electricity is a given. So is the Web. You aren’t going to or going on, you’re reading, browsing, gaming, sharing, uploading, etc. Got it?

Did I miss any other Boomer blunders? Please share them in the comments.

UPDATE: For those Boomers who did not get that this post was meant to be tongue in cheek, it was. It’s facetious. OK?

  1. Official list? What makes it “official?” Did Twitter publish it? was it made up by some Guru or other. I understand the terms but calling it official is silly. Also I agree with Midwest Guest this column is insulting.

    By the way (oops BTW) it was boomers that developed the internet and boomers parents that developed the computer systems necessary to make a worldwide network work.

    An interesting article in today’s NY Times is instructive.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/opinion/sunday/the-elusive-big-idea.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

    • The generalizations are for comic effect. Notice I never said all of you. The ones who do this know who they are and are quite savvy with using their browsers. It’s their terminology in meetings and conferences that’s driving the rest of us nuts. For the record, I am 47 so I’m old enough to make old jokes.

  2. I’m guessing the people you’re addressing aren’t going to see this post because they’re not on “the Twitter” or “Facebooks” to find it. I am here to read it, and I honestly find it at least vaguely insulting. I’ve never been fond of sweeping generalizations or “isms” that assume an entire segment of the population is dense, or worse…and this post strikes me as an expression of ageism (even if it wasn’t intended that way).

  3. One of my favorite boomer Internet stories goes something like this:

    Agency Employee: You can go to Google.com and search for what you need to find.

    Client: Great. Do I have to wait in line to search?

    Agency Employee: (awkward pause) No.

    True story.

    But, to Katherine’s point, that’s an EXTREME example. Most boomers navigate the Web just fine. :)

    Brandon

  4. Lots of us “boomers” are very savvy. The ones who aren’t can sign up for my class at the City of Troy Community Center’s Senior Computer Lab – Intro to Social Media: Facebook, Flickr, Google, YouTube and Staying Safe Online. I’ll be teach two classes in the Fall. Sept 12 & 14 and Oct 17 & 19 6:30 – 8:30 PM