Twitter for Boomers, Lesson 2

A couple of weeks ago, when nature was wreaking havoc on the Northeast in the form of earthquakes and hurricanes, I wrote a post about the importance of Twitter and outlined the basics for opening an account. Now that you’ve had a couple of weeks to play around, it’s time for a few more tips.

First of all, you’ve probably been making lots of mistakes. But that’s OK because I’m pretty sure almost no one saw them. The most difficult thing about Twitter–and really, it’s not hard once you catch on–is figuring out how to talk to people, how to use the @ address (or mention), how to tweet and retweet, and what tone you should take. As I’ve said, Twitter is only as good an experience as you make it, and the Twitter experience completely depends on who you are following and who is following you back. So to review:

  • Following people. You should start out by following about 100 people/organizations, unless you’re Yoko Ono, who follows everyone who follows her, nearly 700,000 people at the moment. First find out if anyone you know is on Twitter. Easiest way is to ask. Or put up a Facebook status asking. Or try the tips in this article from Mashable.com, “10 Ways to Find People on Twitter.” Next choose a few news organizations you like–your local paper, the Associated Press, Gawker, whatever. If you like fashion, then follow fashionistas. If you like tech, well, you won’t be reading this, but follow Tech Crunch. There are organizations you can follow for dog lovers or knitters or whatever. See the Search box next to the blue Twitter bird on the top black bar? Type anything into it and you’ll get results. Fiddle around a bit by clicking on this and that and you’ll find the ASPCA, who along with the Huffington Post, will provide you with pictures of adorable kittens.
  • Getting followers. You see, in Twitter, you can follow almost anyone–unless that person has a protected account (will explain at a later date, but forget it) or has blocked you. People get blocked for being obnoxious (being a “troll”), sending spam, and stuff like that. Otherwise, people don’t bother to block their followers, generally. (I suppose there are some picky people and, actually, even I do a filter thing to get rid of people I’m following who might be dicey. More on that at another time.) But getting followers is hard, unless you’re famous. A good method is to take a social media class at your local Y or community college. That way you’ll start out with a group you can learn with. So to get followers, you have to have some to begin with. Then you have to tweet interesting things–but in the right way. It’s a “if you build it, they will come” kind of thing.
  • About famous people you follow. Know they will not follow you back or even read your tweets. Most famous people have someone who tweets for them. At most they look at their @ mentions, that is, tweets addressed to them. They won’t bother to read these tweets unless they know the sender–or unless you catch their attention.
  • Catching their attention. Well, you do this by commenting on something they’ve said. Using the retweet button at the bottom of a tweet is nice for the person you’re retweeting because for people who count these things, the number of retweets increases a person’s influence online. But look at this: I tweeted the publisher WWNorton this evening:I was being silly. Sort of Tweeting into the stratosphere. Sort of telling my Twitter friends who might be reading through their stream at that moment that I was tired. But, then, this appeared:Somebody at WW Norton read it and was amused. The more you tweet, the more likely things like this will happen. I tweet about Baby Boomers–the AARP follows me. It kind of begins to work like that.
  • Remember, Twitter isn’t about you. Sure, if you’re the star in your local drama club’s production this weekend, tweet about it. But people don’t want to hear about how wonderful you are. They want to interact. Twitter is really social–people make friends. The other night I witnessed the first face-to-face meeting of two women who had been Twitter friends for years. I mean, they really know each other well. Then they finally met. It was kind of awesome. (Yeah, @AmyVernon and @TheWordIsBerry.) If you’re being too obvious about how clever you are, well, any followers you may have will be bored by the tweet. If they even see it.
  • The trick of the retweet. This is how you’ll get noticed–with the manual retweet. That means copying a tweet and pasting it into the “what’s happening” box. You begin by saying something short. Then you type RT (meaning retweet) @ (wherever it came from). Here’s an example: No way I  think Slate magazine was going to read this. But some of my Twitter friends did. And that was what mattered. I’m talking to people I know. Notice that I’m also passing on information, an article from Slate.
  • Tweet essentials. So what does a good tweet have? To quote Sree Sreenivasan, who practically invented social media (follow him at @Sree or @SreeTips), you need to be succinct and give information. A tweet, he says, should be useful or funny. You’ve got to keep it under 140 characters; Sree advises 120, which gives room for retweets.
  • Sending Tweets. So this is where it gets a little complicated. If you start a tweet with @goodfriend, the only person who is going to see that tweet is goodfriend and someone who follows you and goodfriend. Now, when a whole bunch of you are following a famous person, you’ll see the tweets. Remember, the famous person probably won’t bother (though, as I said, people check their @ mentions; you might really hear back). So what you do is put a “character”–a period or anything before the @ mention, like this: Everyone who follows me could see this, although I was really sending it to my friend. But people saw it and retweeted it–kind of like dropping a stone into a lake. It ripples. Sometimes, though, I don’t bother with the .@ and just use @. I do this when I’m being dumb and not thinking, when I’m really talking to one person, or when I don’t really care. Like this:MarcIsGod is my daughter’s friend. This was a conversation between the two of us. Probably we should have been Direct Messaging.
  • Direct Message. Did you know that all Tweets are going into the Library of Congress–except for private ones, called direct messages. You send a Direct Message by putting D before the @, like d @goodfriend. Thing is, you can only direct message someone who is following you. So it really is a friend-to-friend thing.
  • About links. A good Tweet often contains a link to an article or website that gives more information. I’ll talk about link shorteners and stuff in another post, but you can copy the URL of whatever you want to send out and paste it into your link. (Don’t just send links, however. That’s what spammers do. If someone is sending you only links, block him. I’ll get to that later, too.) Also, never click on ANY link unless you know where it is coming from. There’s a lot of bad spamming stuff going on in Twitter. So be careful. Also, if you are manually retweeting and there’s a link you’re including, you’ll also probably have to manually add http://–the magic characters that make a link clickable. This has been a problem in Twitter for a while now.

So, in general, find good people to follow and just play around. Have fun. I’ll recommend this wonderful article on the basics of Twitter by @TweetSmarter. I’ll give the link in full so you can see the title: http://blog.tweetsmarter.com/twitter-basics/is-twitter-really-that-hard-yes-yes-it-is/. Follow @TweetSmarter. He’s the smartest. But Twitter is only hard in the beginning, and only if you don’t take advice from people like @TweetSmarter.

Let me know how you’re doing with Twitter. As long as I don’t get too many questions, like under 100, I’ll answer them personally. I love hearing from everyone by email, Twitter, and Facebook, but there is that comment box too. In case you forgot, I’m @wordwhacker.

You Can Call Us Old, But We Are Not Selfish

The first mention of the article came to me by way of Twilert–my morning hashtag delivery service–via some young guy named Charz Kelso. (Coming attraction: I’ll talk about Twilert on my next post about Baby Boomers and Twitter.) True, we can all use 30-year-old pictures of ourselves as Twitter avatars (translation: pictures), so maybe Charz Kelso isn’t a Gen Yer angry at his parents. But this was his tweet:First off, I don’t get the idea of someone mad about not getting his inheritance. A woman I know once complained bitterly while her parents’ estate was being settled that she wanted her money. “Her money,” I thought. “It’s your parents’ money. They worked for it. They had the right to do with it whatever they want.” So I object to that kind of spoiled kid attitude, whether the person is six or sixty-six. An inheritance, should one be so lucky, is a gift, not something you are owed.

Anyway, next I clicked on the link in his tweet, which brought me to Time.com’s “Moneyland”: http://ti.me/oiPZF0. This article cited a study by U.S. Trust (a retirement investment company) that concluded that “a surprisingly low 49% of millionaire boomer parents said that leaving money to their kids was a priority.” They also referred to the Baby Boomer reputation for selfishness–something I hadn’t heard before and would much dispute. (The so-called “me” generation was around before Boomers had come of age.) I tried to check out the study itself, but the U.S. Trust page didn’t have a link. So I went to the original article in the L.A. Times. (http://lat.ms/oUvor4) The only information I got there was that U.S. Trust surveyed some millionaire boomers. But how many they surveyed, how they picked their sample, and so on I couldn’t ascertain. So I called a friend who manages money for millionaires. He was circumspect, of course. That’s his professional stance. But mostly he was “huh?” His logic? The multi-multi millionaires have more than they can possibly spend in their lifetimes, and their plans often include trusts for children and grandchildren.

The L.A. Times article also quotes Ken Dychtwald, a former economics guru who somehow manages to still be a quotable person, even though the recession flushed his “age-wave” theory down the tubes:

“Many boomers already are giving the equivalent of an inheritance, except they’re doling out the cash while they’re still alive, said Ken Dychtwald, chief executive of research firm Age Wave. They’re supporting elderly parents, adult children or other family members who are suffering professional or financial woes. ‘How can you say no when a child asks ask for a down payment for a house or money to remodel their house to have a bedroom for a second child?’ Dychtwald said. ‘A lot of boomers are finding that family members are taking cash advances on those inheritances right now.’”

In other words, come inheritance time, what with all we’ve spent sending out kids to college, helping them buy homes, getting our parents the best medical care, well, there just might not be that much money left. Let’s forget about the multi-millionaires. There aren’t that many of them anyway, and really, whether the Hiltons are putting away money for Paris or the Kardashians for their famous kids, I don’t give a hoot.

Let’s talk instead about the upper middle class or regular old middle class baby boomers whose 401ks and other retirement investments kind of shrunk during the recession. We aren’t nearly as rich as we thought we were. We also can expect to live well into our 80′s. It might be really hard if we want or need to retire to live just off principal so that there will be a chunk of money available (when we die) to our heirs. The continued resistance, indeed vilification, of a sensible medical system where people could get good care for relatively little money–the kind of system in place in Canada, Israel and many Western countries–makes more plausible the possibility that we shall have to finance our own care should we get hit with an illness in our older years.

I might have ignored this tweet, except that Creating Results (http://creatingresults.com), a PR company that focuses on BabyBoomers and seniors and that usually tweets important information about this enormous cohort of our population, picked up the same quote as Charz Kelso, and tweeted this:

To which I replied, “no way, silly study,” or somesuch. They came back with this (and by the way, I’m @wordwhacker on Twitter, for those of you who don’t know):

And that’s the point. For most of us, decisions about inheritance might be moot. We are not selfish. Far from it. So many of us are right now helping out unemployed recent college/professional school graduates. How could we possibly do otherwise? They’re our kids. Or we might be paying medical bills for the elderly and infirm. But how could we do otherwise? They’re our parents. Personally, I am grateful for how comfortable my husband and I are. And if we somehow amass a nice chunk of cash before we die, I’ll be really happy for my kids to have it. I’m glad I’m not so rich that I’m too busy spending everything I’ve got so that there will be nothing left for my children and (I hope) grandchildren when I leave this earth.

One more thing: Charz Kelso’s tweet reminded me of other ones that come through on my #babyboomer Twilert feed or comments I read online–young people all lathered up into a fury by right wing Republicans and Tea Party-ers because they say we’re taking their money when we get Social Security and Medicare Baby Boomers. I’m not going to argue that there aren’t problems with the way Social Security is set up now because there does seem to be a tipping point a couple decades from now when the system could go broke. Nonetheless, it’s not “their” money we’re getting. It’s money that has been taken from our paychecks every day of our working lives. It belongs to us. It is not a gift. It has been an investment.

Some things to consider:

  • Clue your kids in about your finances. No, not when they’re in their teens, but if they’re adults, they should know where your money is invested and how you foresee financing the rest of your lives.
  • Talk to them about what they’ll inherit. Look, we’re getting on to 60, and people die. Adult kids should have some idea how to access your assets. At some point, you should also have the “Suzie gets grandma’s china” discussion. Find out what is important to them and write it down. Your lawyer can keep a copy.
  • Speaking of lawyers, have a will and a living will. Even if you don’t have that much money, it’s important that you leave clear instructions about what you want to happen when you die. Do you want your kids to sell your house and split the proceeds, or are you hoping one of them buys out the others? Be clear. Also, make it known what you want to happen to you–do you want “heroic measures,” i.e. feeding tubes, if you’re in a coma an not expected to revive? Do you want to be buried or cremated?

Finally, a shout out to Charz Kelso (who seems maybe to live in Singapore): That was a really well done tweet. For those of you interested in what makes a good tweet, note that he has all the elements: A new and interesting idea; a hashtag (#inheritance) under which this tweet will be filed and seen; a link to an article; wit.

As always, you can leave your comments here on the blog. You can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/Linda.Bernstein or facebook.com/LindaBernsteinPhD. On Twitter I’m @wordwhacker. Do you think Baby Boomers are selfish? Let me know.

 

Not Quite In-Laws

I love Yiddish and wish I had actually paid attention when my father tried to teach me to read it. The language is vivid, flexible, and has kinds of words not found in many languages, such as a distinct term to denote the familial relationship between a man and his mother-in-law. I don’t know that one. In fact, when it comes to in-laws, I’m reduced to one word: machatonim—the meshpuchah (family) into which your child marries.

Technically, I needn’t be thinking about this yet. Neither my son nor my daughter is engaged. It’s not something I’m waiting for with baited breath, either. I really like the current boyfriend and girlfriend and if engagements occur, I’ll be happy. Meanwhile, though . . . well, it will happen when it happens.

(One thing that might be delaying the engagement thing: right now, my kids and their significant others are unemployed lawyers, but that’s another column. In the meantime, check out this from The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/oM4yVi about the law school racket, how the schools churn out more and more lawyers in the face of fewer and fewer jobs while the presidents and faculties get rich)

But during the past two-and-a-half years, as both became romantically attached, they developed strong relationships with other families. At first, I did not like this. I still sometimes feel a little piqued or put upon when my son or daughter chooses to spend time with the boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s family when I really want them to be home with us. I admit to the itsy bitsy part of me that wishes they were still little and totally dependent on us for everything, when we were their world. (Well, I got that over with. By the time I finished typing that sentence, I went back to loving that they’re independent and interesting young adults.)

Of course, I kind of knew this would happen. But I also sort figured my daughter would marry her brother’s first friend (son of good friends of ours—didn’t happen). I also wanted my children to have much better relationships with their in-laws than I had with mine. My in-law problem had much to do with geography—they lived in Florida and came to New York City three times from the day I married their son until they died. My husband and I, later with the kids,  went to Florida for at least a week a year, but we never grew close.

My parents and my in-laws were a bad match, too. Not that they actively disliked each other. They just had nothing in common. Maybe they’d call each other on holidays, but that was it.

So, I am pleasantly surprised that my children picked partners with really nice families with good values. In the realm of coincidences possible in this life, my daughter fell in love with a young man from the small town nearest to our country house. So we started seeing his parents socially every now and then—movies, informal dinners. Now it’s more often. Yesterday afternoon I found myself in town in the hardware store, frustrated that I couldn’t find a crock just right for making cucumber half sour pickles like the ones my grandmother made. It occurred to me that I was a 1 minute drive from Dave’s folks. So I picked up my iPhone and spent the next two hours sitting on the front porch of a Victorian era farmhouse. Nice. My son’s girlfriend’s mom and I have been exchanging emails as the kids study for the bar exam. Her dad is on Facebook, and sometimes I see him there. Nice. My son’s girlfriend’s family go to the shore for a vacation each year; my son is joining them. Nice. My daughter’s boyfriend’s family goes to a lake in Maine, and she’ll be part of that group. Nice.

There’s no name for this expansion of family pre-marriage. We have new friends, not necessarily besties, but people we like. Our kids have other adults with whom they interact, about whom they care. I suppose there would have been a word in Yiddish, should the language have evolved in that direction. (The only people who actively and daily use language, aside from some cultural enthusiasts, are certain sects of Orthodox Jews who do not, I imagine, have these kinds of relationships since their kids get married. Early.) Me, the word person—I’m willing to just enjoy the feeling.

Here is a t-shirt I hope I’ll be wearing one day:

  • Follow your kids’ lead. My kids weren’t the type to “bring home” just anyone. When they were ready, we were happy to meet the person. I’ve always tried not to pressure or nag, though, I must say, I haven’t always succeeded. So I say, “follow your kids’ lead” in the spirit of “take this good advice I’ve heard from others,” not, “oh, follow my example.”
  • Try not to mention ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. We’ve been pretty good about that, though sometimes it’s hard not to mention them especially when they play a role in a funny story. My rule here is that you get to tell the story, but you don’t emphasize the ex.
  • Don’t call a current boyfriend or girlfriend by an ex’s name. I mention this because I’ve done it. My son dated a girl named Megan in high school, and I sometimes call the dog Megan. I don’t get it.
  • Be there for your kid, even when the significant other is in the right. A corollary to this is that even after a break-up, don’t overly malign the ex because they might get back together. A former boss whose kids were a bit older than my gave me this advice: her daughter unengaged and re-engaged about three times before that relationship finally bit the dust.

As always, I invite your comments and would love to hear your almost-in-law stories.

Lauren Still Missing; Still Missing Lauren

“People just don’t disappear,” Robby Spierer said at a news conference about the search for his 20-year-old daughter Lauren, who vanished in the early morning hours of June 3, 2011.

Unfortunately, Robby is wrong. Young woman, girls, go missing every day, all over the world. And what we Americans don’t like to see is that young women and girls get abducted and forced into sex slavery here in the United States of America all the time. Amy Fine Collins wrote an amazing column about sex trafficking in the online version of Vanity Fair on May 24, 2011. For the women in this story, things mostly turn out OK. They have been rescued. The nightmare they endured is over.

But these particular words from the article haunt me: “Caught in the vice unit’s net was a fragile, ghostly, almost child-like blonde. Barely five feet tall and scarcely 90 pounds . . ..” That could describe Lauren: blond, barely five feet tall, scarcely 90 pounds. I am not positing that a pimp abducted Lauren and has turned her into a sex slave. I’m only calling attention to the fact that girls do go missing, girls just like Lauren. (Here’s the Vanity Fair article. Read it! http://vnty.fr/mSNleY)

As a mom—as a mom who knew Lauren Spierer when she was a child—I have been caught up in the “search,” but from afar. I blog; I tweet; I talk to my daughter, who was best friends in elementary school with Lauren’s older sister. Compared to those on the ground in Indianapolis, what I do barely crosses the threshold of nothing. There are people who put on hiking clothing everyday to search ravines and woods. Law enforcement agents sift through tips. Through this all the Spierer family has been resolute and dignified, eloquent.

Those in the Bloomington community have come to regard Lauren as one of their own, which she is. For them, even the hundreds who do not know her, finding Lauren has become a mission. And then there are the thousands and thousands who are following the blogs and Twitter feed. “What’s pulling them in,” I wonder. The wünderkind New York Times reporter Brian Stelter (twitter handle: @brianstelter) made an important observation in article on the Casey Antony case that the public suffers from a lurid fascination with tot killers. (http://nyti.ms/jP5VRO) To the list of what grabs an audience I would add “attractive young women who disappear into thin air.”

Still, all those people out there who have been tweeting and retweeting Lauren’s information are playing a vital role—because somebody out there knows where she is. Today we call it “crowd-sourcing.” It was through twitter “crowd-sourcing” that NPR reporter Andy Carvin (twitter handle: @acarvin. Follow him) was able to debunk the rumor that Israel was providing bombs to Libya. In 2004 New Yorker writer James Surowiecki called this phenomenon “the wisdom of crowds. This time we hope the crowd will be able to find Lauren. True, Robby was wrong: young women disappear all the time. But Lauren’s mom, Charlene, was right when she admonished: “Shame on you, shame on you” to anyone who knows something and has not come forward. No matter what you did or saw, the more time that goes by, the worse it will be for you. The more time that goes by, the worse it becomes for Lauren’s family. Be a human being. Say what you know.

Before I list a few things that Baby Boomers might want to think about, here are some important resources.

A woman in Indiana, who I’m not sure wants to be named, has been running a blog and twitter feed. Here’s some important information.

 

1. Twitter feed: @NewsOnLaurenS.

2. To find out how you can help online:

http://newsonlaurens.blogspot.com/2011/06/10-tips-to-help-findlauren.html

3. For people in Bloomington, to help organize volunteers who want to search: http://newsonlaurens.blogspot.com/2011/06/will-you-become-find-lauren-search.html

4. To remind others of the tip line and the reward. “Any information would be most helpful.”

http://newsonlaurens.blogspot.com/2011/06/friday-evenings-tweet-please-rt.html

 

Malorie Janasek, who is young and hip and beautiful and an IU graduate, has a younger, hipper, more beautiful blog on her site: http://maloriejanasek.com. Read her. Follow her on Twitter at @maloriejanasek.

For a video of the press conference, see http://bit.ly/miCAlk, from Fox News Insider.

 

Takeaways for Baby Boomers:

  • Keep track. Sometimes the best way to stay close is to pull back and let our children have “their space.” But we need to figure out how to know their friends, their habits. Can we somehow be in their lives without being annoying? Suggestions here? (And I am in no way imputing that Robert and Charlene did anything they shouldn’t have or neglected to do something. As I wrote in a previous post, they are about the best people you’d ever want to mee.)
  • Do something about young people’s alcohol consumption. Bad things happen to young people when they are very drunk. But young people drink, and, it seems to me, there’s not much parents or even colleges can do to stop this. But any ideas? Are there ways for high schools and colleges to get involved without alienating their students? I remember my daughter had to complete an online course on alcohol before she started college. She made fun of it. But, I consider myself fortunate here, she doesn’t hold her liquor well and prefers being sober to being sick.
  • Rally for better safety surveillance. Yeah, this is going to go over big in a country that daily becomes more concerned about Big Brother and Big Government, whether it is healthcare or security cameras. Students won’t want to be watched, but more security guards and cameras might be the ticket.

 

Please leave your comments. I understand that since I moved the blog from Blogher to my own website, I’ve become impossible to find unless one knows the name of my blog. In other words, when one searches Google for “baby boomers,” I’m on, like, page 10. The more comments on the blog, the better the search engine optimization. I’m not saying I don’t love the emails and Facebook comments. I do! Keep those up too. You can all be my Facebook friends: friend me at www.facebook.com/linda.bernstein; like my page at www.facebook.com/lindabernsteinphd.