The not-so-secret Internet diary of a Gen X woman
This guest blog by Victoria Grace follows my invitation for comment on media, culture and society from difference generations. It follows posts by Gen X Ged Carroll and my Gen Z daughter Ellie Waddington. By Victoria Grace
Born in 1979, the tail-end of Generation X, my formal computing education began with Granny’s Garden on the BBC Micro and ended with some basic experience of an Excel spreadsheet.
I was 17 before I had even encountered the web. Armed with a first edition of The Rough Guide to the Internet, borrowed from my local library, I ventured into the new computer lab in school break time, empty but for a couple of geeky boys.
A different world opened up. I fell in love with the potential of the Internet while most of my friends were oblivious to its existence and quite resistant to computers in their lives. Now even my 65 year old mum, who wholly disapproved of my attempt to ride the dot com boom with a web design business in 2000, is never off her iPad.
Twitter, you are my favourite. Where I can tap into useful local networks, connect with fresh-thinking individuals, and share humour with other despairing mothers. At any moment in time I can reach out to people, find an alternative view point and get involved in conversation.
As my feed is public, my ground rules are that I try to be honest about my views without saying or retweeting anything that I wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining to my mother or my employer.
I worry that my children won’t take the same precautions but I’d like to think they won’t face the same judgements as employers become more understanding and accepting of Gen Z individuals and their personal brands.
I recently started using Instagram to post photos to my Twitter feed. Whilst I enjoy the editing creativity, I don’t need a separate feed of favourites and comments and I prefer my photos to be in-line with the Tweet.
Sorry Facebook but I might have to unfriend you. I signed up for an early stage Facebook account in 2006 and back then there wasn’t a great deal to see. Not much has changed. For me it's almost redundant.
Facebook has some value in that it makes it easier to stay in contact with distant family or old acquaintances but it is too easily a passive and voyeuristic contact which doesn’t sit well with me.
It houses an odd mix of contacts - family I never see, friends I haven’t seen since school, and recent acquaintances that I had no intention of seeing again when I made them. There aren’t many active posters amongst my friends so my newsfeed has become dominated by an active minority. And because these connections have not stemmed from shared interests there are fewer meaningful conversations taking place than on Twitter.
It wasn’t always like this. I did go through a phase of posting holiday albums, baby photos and making the occasional status update, but it felt forced, because I didn’t feel like the audience was genuinely that interested.
Many a time I wish I had the courage to delete my account, cull friends, or even just delete the app and save myself the habitual daily liking of baby photos and the excruciating trawl through semi-amusing videos that I only get to view if I successfully scroll the minefield of ad-ridden external links.
LinkedIn for longevity
As an in-house lawyer, LinkedIn holds a valuable network of professional contacts. These days, I am much more likely to invite university alumni or work colleagues to connect on LinkedIn than friend request them through Facebook.
Outside of my direct contacts I tap into industry expertise through Groups, and there are a number of other knowledge-sharing features to explore when I get the time. So, in addition to its most obvious use to facilitate career progression, I see LinkedIn’s enduring strength as a feature-rich resource for personal development.
Sweating it out on Strava
Running is definitely an activity better shared amongst people that care, rather than with a general audience of Facebook friends, many of whom really don’t want to know how much you have sweated that morning.
Where I go to relax and escape by collecting ideas and feeding my creativity. Strangely I feel more emotionally attached to my Pinterest account than other social media vehicles. Losing my Pinterest boards would feel like losing a piece of me.
Like many born in the latter years of Gen X, I can feel caught between two worlds. As an early adopter I feel like a Digital Native, with an awareness and understanding of the digital world that is exceptional in my peer group. But my formal education, the pace of change, and I’m sad to say it, my age, put me on the back foot when it comes to competing with Gens Y and Z.
I am nostalgic for paperback novels, and possessive about my MP3 collection and in the same way that I no longer recognise the music on Radio 1, I have no idea what SnapChat can offer.
However, I feel privileged to have lived through the Internet boom, and unlike Gen Z who will see the Internet as part of the furniture (perhaps literally), I am regularly in awe of it. It’s like watching and living in episode of Tomorrow’s World all at the same time and I can’t wait to find out what happens next week.
About Victoria Grace
Victoria works as an in-house lawyer for Aesica Pharmaceuticals. After graduating from Newcastle University she gave self-employment a try, then moved to London to get a proper job. After 10 years she's moved back to Northumberland with her husband and two toddler boys. You’ll find her on Twitter @v1ctoria and she blogs at victoriagrace.co.uk.