A couple of years ago I was the member of a team who played (and won) a match against Oxford University.  The average age of our opponents was 21 and ours was 72; yes, we were all old enough to be their grandfathers.

I’m hoping this victory sounds impressive, but I fear I may take the edge off it now when I tell you that the occasion was a croquet match.  We won because, whilst the youngsters hit the balls harder and straighter than we could, we were much better at tactics – or, to put it another way, we were more cunning!

After the game we all retired to a nearby pub where we, the victorious team (couldn’t resist reminding you!), bought the youngsters a consolation drink.  During the ensuing conversation one of our number started to reminisce about his time at university (Cambridge) and, having started, he went on to say that his university education was free, that having graduated he walked straight into a well paid job, that he bought his first house at the age of 25 and had no problem getting a 90% mortgage, that every property he had sold made a massive profit, that he retired with a handsome pension at the age of 60……….and so on.

Throughout this homily the youngsters remained impressively polite.  The contrast between his ‘I’ve had it easy’ boasting and the reality of the undergraduates’ situation was stark.  I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if they had hit him or, at the very least, walked out in protest.

My colleague’s reminisce was certainly insensitive in the circumstances and now I realise that I have recently done something equally clumsy; I joined Facebook.  You might think there’s no harm in that but apparently young people are deserting Facebook ‘to avoid the stigma of using the same site as the older generation’.   The Global Social Media Impact Study, led by Professor Daniel Miller, has discovered that 16 – 18 year olds in the UK think that Facebook is ‘not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried’.

So, oldies like me (and perhaps my croquet playing colleagues) are unintentionally guilty of elbowing in on something designed by youngsters for youngsters.  The question is, what should we do?   Clear off, blow the dust off our quill pens, and go back to letter writing?   Stay on Facebook but keep quiet about it and avoid all postings/pictures that reveal we are oldies?  Unashamedly boast about being on Facebook and champion it as a wonderful communication channel, especially for oldies who want to keep in touch, and let the youngsters find alternatives (as they are and will)?

Depending on your reaction to these questions, either send your answer on a postcard (remember postcards?) or just send a comment via Facebook.  Happy new year!

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