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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Boomerang: CyberSeniorCenter!

CYBERSPACE – Greetings, Earthlings. I descend from far beyond three-point range to deliver today’s lesson – which is about unanticipated outcomes and happy by-products thereto – for the generation that is currently in its prime time.


As it was in 1839, when Charles Goodyear discovered the process of vulcanizing rubber on his stovetop, allowing boomers to procure points on their licenses in their sooped-up roadsters, to the late 20th century, when British scientists working on a drug for hypertension discovered the libido-enhancing possibilities of what was patented as Viagra, giving rise (so to speak) to a generation of hallelujahs as well as the dubious phenomenon of today’s Hugh Hefner, who doubtless enjoys continued performance while perhaps scarcely remembering why it was so important in the first place.

The point being, you never can be sure what will pop up.

The common ground is that products and services developed with nearly every generation in mind – save for the oldest generation – are embraced, enhanced and in some cases dominated by folks who aren’t within a mile of the “target market.”

Which brings us (“finally!” my editor says) to Facebook. Originally the site was developed as sort of a cyber-yearbook for Harvard college students in 2003. (Little known fact: Mark Zuckerberg originally named it ‘Facemash,’ perhaps as a predictive name that forecasted his IPO performance.) Anyway, less than a decade later, boomers and pre-boomers make up a robust percentage of the user-pie. You don’t need a bunch of fancy stats to prove it to you. Just look around – you have grandparents staying in touch, liking little Susie’s ballet outfit while simultaneously chastising Susie’s mom for dressing her like a trollop. Tell me that you never see this.

Statistics are fantastic. If you want more, I highly suggest either the Wall Street Journal, or, in your case being in Saratoga, the Daily Racing Form. We’re about stories today, actual boomer-people and how they use Facebook (FB) in their daily lives. We sent out a post asking for their stories, and have assembled a ‘fab-five’ of respondents. So gather ‘round the cyber-water-cooler and check in.

Anne Hodge is currently the bar and restaurant manager at the fabulous Inn at Saratoga. She is approaching boomerism, yet we let her in the tent because she’s cool. She has resided in Saratoga Springs for 18 years. Before that:

“Having lived all over the country, and not having a hometown where my parents are, I have found people I would never have contact with if not for Facebook. I have reconnected with people who came and went from my life. It has had a profound impact on who I think I am by reminding me of who I have been,” Anne said.

Anne is a ‘most days’ user of Facebook, and her mode of usage is as follows: “I surfed through groups from towns I lived in to see if I knew anyone who was a member. I found my best friend from fourth through sixth grade, and through her friend list found another one,” she said. “That's what I like about FB. I don't regularly check group info as I access FB mostly on my phone and the options are limited, but its nice to know it’s there. A big plus with using my phone is that it doesn't do the timeline.”

Damian Fantauzzi is technically post-boomer by a year (born in 1944). He was a beloved art teacher at Saratoga Springs High for 35 years, as well as boys' basketball coach for 24 of them, and girls' basketball for eight. If you want to read some good writing, check out his ‘most-weeks’ sports column about 14 pages to the right of this. [Editor's note: Damian returns next week!] “My daughter (Caitlin) got me into FB,” Damian says. “She thought it would be a great way to stay in touch with former students and players, and it is. I get to find out about their lives in general, political interests, all kinds of things.”

“My usage has been growing; I’d say I’m on FB 1-2 hours a day, 5 days a week.” As far as other social network sites, Damian said, “I’m just getting into Twitter – my daughter works for them, actually. I’m on LinkedIn, also new to it, and keep in touch with students professionally with that site.” But FB is still the primary. “I use an app called ‘Game Draw’ (a Pictionary derivative) with some students, and of course I stay in touch with my former classmates from Mechanicville High School. We just had our 50th reunion last weekend, and I posted pictures on my page, of course,” Damian said.  

Randi Kish is a working boomer. She moved to Saratoga in 1977 to teach at Saratoga Junior High School and then started her family. Randi is a member of the Saratoga Clay Arts Center, and has her studio on the premises.

“I consider myself a daily user – I’m on in the morning, or before sleep – and I get alerts on my iPhone,” Randi said. “I don’t use side apps or games – my life is too busy.” Randi has both a personal page and studio art page (Randimartinkish/ceramics.) “I post every day on my personal page,” she said.

“My high school class has a page (Plainview Kennedy ’71 on Long Island) and I stay in touch - not only with old friends, but people I shared hallways with and sort of knew, but now are good friends in real time.” Randi said. “I also keep in touch with my cousin and his children (who are flung from Maine to Syracuse). It’s great, because I’m not a phone-person.”

On the artistic/business side, Randi notes: “Through FB I made a whole network of potters like myself, and other FB friends have shown up at my shows and studio. We’ll meet for lunch, etc., something that would be unlikely if not impossible otherwise.”

Patrick Kane is known to most of you for his activities with Saratoga Citizen. But Pat Kane, the private person, has a robust life and family, and social media is part of the routine. A Hadley native, he moved to Saratoga Springs in 1994. If you know Pat, you set the scene and say “OK, go!” and out pop the perfect sound bites and quotes:

“Here’s my schedule,” Pat says, “I’m on Facebook from 6:30 a.m. to 7 or so; then I get dressed. I go to LinkedIn, where I have joined a lot of groups, and I spend maybe 45 minutes there. Twitter – maybe. It’s much more inbound than outbound. I’m on FB twice a day, and post (personally) maybe 5 times a month.”

“Here’s two ways that show how I’ve re-established and maintain connections; one business, one personal,” Pat said. “First, I re-established connection with a guy I commuted to work with in Boston; he now lives in Washington DC. Second, my niece (who is from Burnt Hills and lives in NYC) celebrated her birthday today, and sent a “happy b-d 2 me” photo from Shanghai!”

Finally, for several reasons, including my strong fiscal desire to stay in the will, we present:

Ina Segal-Gonick celebrated her 82nd birthday last Saturday, the 22nd. She is a retired fifth grade teacher (Hawthorne #7, Teaneck, NJ), moved to Clifton Park in 1983, then Saratoga Springs in 1992. She was an active snowbird from 1998-2011 and now lives in Albany.

“I went on FB because my children and grandchildren wanted me to. The kids wanted a way to stay in touch when I was down in Florida; but reconnecting with my students was a happy by-product.” Mrs. Gonick said.

“Maureen Burke-Chadwick was the first student to find me, and that led to 5 others. They all came to Florida to see me, and they are all in their 60s. I told them they could come if they called me Ina, not Mrs. Gonick.”

“I’ve reconnected with some old friends and relatives from the ‘old neighborhood’ (spanning from the Bronx to Seaford, NY on Long Island),” she said. “I’d like to stay in touch with my Florida friends, but they are too old for a computer. I’m the technical wizard at the condo!”

“Some friends I’ve tried to find, but no luck. I wonder if they are still with us.”

“I’m on FB every day, for about 3-4 hours each day. No Twitter, and I have no idea what LinkedIn is. I’m big on the Words with Friends app; right now I’ve got 15 games going with seven people. I do pretty well, except for my number one son, who beats me about 70 percent of the time. It keeps my mind sharp. I’m sorry, what did you say your name was, young man?” J/K mom – happy birthday one mo’ time!

Anyway, as Mr. Durkin says – it is now post time. While you have been reading this, your cyber friends have been patiently waiting to hear how much you enjoyed last night’s leftover moo goo gai pan, and your take on similar important issues of the day. Don’t keep them waiting, and remember to always ‘like’ each other.

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