A couple of weeks back a discussion popped up on a natural hair board I belong to about why young nappies dominate the hair board and why hardly any mature nappies blog about caring for natural hair in your forties and beyond. (No comments please about my use of the “n” word. “Nappy” is a term of endearment there on the hair board.) Several of us over forty-five types concluded that the reason younguns’ dominate the hair board is because black women our age and older are largely distrustful of the Internet. My contemporaries use the net largely for email, but that’s about it.
“A woman I know lost her husband to Facebook,” someone stood up and said at a women clergy conference I attended this week. “An old high school girlfriend of his found him on Facebook and he left his wife for the old girlfriend.” Our worst suspicions were confirmed. “Jeeezus,” some one cried out. “Hmmmmph, hmmmph, hmmmph” said another. That does it: The devil is in the computer. Facebook. Identity Theft. Spam. Twitter. Yep, Satan is behind it all.
Many of my favorite bookmarked blogs are by black women bloggers in their 20s and 30s (e.g., opinion blogs, self-help blogs, inspirational blogs, how-to blogs, craft blogs). This generation has never met a hunch, idea, opinion, suspicion or fantasy they didn’t think deserved airing.
It seems that black women my age seem to be content with being information consumers rather than information producers.
I’m willing to guess that the vast majority of the women who leave comments on this blog are younger women, women under forty. Plenty of women over forty visit my blog (I know because they tell me they do when I meet them); but it’s mostly young ones who jump into the cyber dialogue and weigh-in in the comments sections
I should be hurt but I’m not. I know they love me. But virtually none of my friends who are my age read my blog. Yeah, I’m putting y’all on blast. (Of course, they may feel they don’t need to read my blog since I go on and on all the time about whatever opinion I hold. Forgive me.) Most of them have a Facebook page, but they use it to announce where they will be speaking and teaching next. Yet, they are all fierce, thinking women who have high profile positions or who head major organizations.
Here’s the deal: my contemporaries don’t have the time to spend time online. At least that’s what they claim. They don’t have time to blog or to learn how get their information and opinions out on the web. But time isn’t the only reason. My contemporaries feel clumsy around technology. We’re frightened by technology. The world wide web sounds too vast to fathom. We are from the generation of girls who shied away from science and technology. Dissecting frogs. “Eeeewww.” Mixing compounds. “Don’t let that stuff get on my outfit.” Dissassembling things to see how they worked. Boring. Assembling parts to improve their function. “My nail!” There were no summer programs back then for colored high school girls to spark our interest in engineering and science.
Tell me: How many black female IT people do you know? When you need help with some computer problem, how likely are you to call a black woman your know (over 40) to talk you through how to fix your computer problem? I thought not.
Let me be clear: I don’t mean to suggest that black women, even older ones, are anti-technology or anti-gadgets It’s not like we use carrier pigeons to send messages. We love our cell phones. We enjoy our iPods. We can’t live without our microwaves. We pride ourselves on having the latest hair curling contraption. But computers are another thing. Solitaire and email. That’s it. Using the comments section to air our protest? Social networking? Keeping up with celebrities every move? We prefer real time and real friendships. We’re old fashioned like that, I suppose.
“Silver hair tekkie” is how a young nappy former student of mine refers to me. That’s because I seem always to be one step ahead of her in gadgetry and was for a long time always pushing her to up her technology game. IM me. Skype me. Snap the photo and text it to me. Sign in and give me permission to have remote access to your computer. Your computer is too slow. Why is it that I have a blog and you don’t, and I’m thirty years older than you.? Get off my blog, and get a blog of your own. When the cable technician comes to the house to program the television or to get us back online, my husband calls me into the room to decipher the technician’s directions.
I’m far from being a tech geek; I know just enough to keep me from having to be a slave to real computer geeks. I am a life long student of technology because I have had to be. I hate depending upon other people to do things for me I want done yesterday. But I must admit: being the the computer savvy old woman that I am means that I spend a lot of my time on the computer in conversation with women half my age. That’s not a bad thing. Except on occasion. Like when I shoot back with a response like “jive turkey” or talk about doing the “kool jerk” and I get one of those emoticons back that say makes clear that the person on the other line is clueless as to my meaning. Talk about a generational divide.
What about the rest of you? Do you agree there’s a generational divide among us black women when it comes to technology? How tech savvy is your mother? How tech savvy are you? Why aren’t black women over 45 better represented in cyberspace? Why don’t black women use the Internet more to promote their work and/or to help shape public opinion? What do you think?