The Social Age

My sisters and I just threw a 50th Anniversary Party for my parents. We invited people from age 14 to 90 and, while most live within 30 miles, a few were from out of state.

Originally, I thought this could be a totally digital effort. You know, email everyone an invitation and post it on Facebook. I was quickly reminded, however, that different age groups have very different habits. My parents don’t email. They rarely get on their computer. My mom has a Facebook page only because my sister created one for her. And having one and using it are two entirely different things.

They had email addresses for a grand total of 35% of those on their invitation list.

Since everybody had a regular mailing address, we ended up going the direct mail route. We sent a “Save the Date” and, six weeks out, the invitation to the party. To get an idea of how much food we would need, we asked people to RSVP.

Because I’m in Winston-Salem, the RSVP had a 336 area code. My parents live in 910. In this age of smart phones, you wouldn’t think that would be an issue. But. . . it was.

Apparently older people don’t like to call outside their area code. A few just phoned my parents to let them know they would attend. All told, probably 50% RSVP’d – and it was mostly the over 60 set who responded.

I let my answering machine pick up the RSVPs. One of my parent’s neighbors let me know that was a mistake: “A lot of people probably hung up without leaving a message like we did,” he said. “We didn’t want to talk to a machine.”

It’s interesting how habits are changing among generations. My parents grew up very comfortable calling friends and dropping by their neighbors’ homes unannounced. My neighbors rarely drop by without texting (or calling) first. And my kids will text volumes before they’ll ever call a soul.

The end result is rather isolating.

Texting and emailing may be valid forms of getting your message across but they’re also passive – less personal than a phone call where you can actually hear someone’s voice. They can also be one sided. They may seem faster, simpler and, therefore, better forms of communication, but could they actually be putting more distance between us?

Despite a limited number of RSVP’s, we had a big turnout for the party. Everyone seemed to have a great time. Face to face. We didn’t receive any texts or emails the next day, but several of their friends dropped by to say how much fun they’d had. It was all very social – with no social media!

As Dylan says, “The times, they are a-changin’”. . . but is it for the better?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – via text or email, of course.