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Your Digital Kids

Generation Gap Widens Over Spam

My 80-year-old dad just invited everyone he knows to join him on Desktop Dating. (I’ll refrain from providing the URL.) Desktop Dating is a porn dating site. The site’s opening screen shows two people engaged in some powerful human one-on-one interaction.

So what was going through Dad’s head when he invited everyone in his AOL address book to join him as a friend on a porn dating site? According to Dad, his friend Eddie made him do it. Dad fell for the old “can’t-say-no-to-a-request-from-a-friend”; that’s just part of his upbringing.

Eddie never sent the invitation out to his friends either. Both of them received messages from people they knew really well, asking them to become friends. Once they accepted, the site asked if they would like to invite others to be friends. Once Eddie and Dad clicked on the “yes” to invite others, the site’s program went to work, looking at all of the email addresses in their address books and immediately sending out the same “join my group” invitation.

But it was the reaction of family and friends to Dad’s invite that showed how different generations react. In general, the elders fell into two categories: naïve enough to accept and then send out their own invites or mortified, terrified, and violated. I got the same Desktop Dating invitation from a few other “mature” relatives the next day. They did it because it came from Dad.

The younger kids didn’t lift an electronic eyebrow. They hit the delete key. Of all of the many young cousins, grandkids, nieces, and nephews, only three of them made any comment to their parents. It was something along the lines of “Got a weird email from Grampy today.” My own daughter warned me of Grampy’s request by forwarding it to me with the comment, “looks as if Grampy’s new computer is lonesome.”

The best response came from an octogenarian. Cousin Marty wrote my dad a rather lengthy apology for not accepting his date. “I’d love nothing more than to be your desktop date,” said Marty in his email to Dad, “but it seems as if Verizon does not want me to be your date. They won’t let me join.” He went on to offer a solution: “I’ve forgotten my password on Facebook, but I do have an account. Maybe we can date there instead.”

Dad’s a bit PO’ed by the whole event. He hates looking dumb (and haven’t we all been there). The elders have proof that the kids don’t react much to out-of-the-norm web events. The grownups are reminded again that even your best friend Eddie can be someone else on the web. I’m reminded of the big gap between the two and wondering how my kids’ kids will react to it all. I’m also reminded of how great it is to have your extended family as web friends; the generation gap has always been there, but now we get to experience it in all sorts of new ways.