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The Society of Elderly Bloggers

I read a review of The Runaways that said that everyone who sees it will leave the theater feeling like a lecherous old man regardless of age or gender.  And it’s really true.  Everyone left the theater blushing and giggling nervously.

Wait…what was I saying?

Joan Jett is my hero because she made it happen, and by “it,” I mean she kicked doors down for her music career.  She made her entire career happen whether it was not hearing the societal “no” at the idea of an all-girls’ rock band or not hearing 23 recording studios saying “no” to her solo career and releasing the album under her own, newly-formed label.  She is the equivalent of the self-publishing fairytale–a woman who believed in herself and believed that people would embrace her art if given a chance to meet up with it and was right.

But what she had the entire time was age on her side.  If Joan had been in her forties when she met up with Kim Fowley, would he have given her the time of day?

For example, if you saw that a newly-formed group of fifty-year-old women were going to be playing a rock concert in your town (in other words, it wasn’t an already established band who has aged), would you go?  Even if they were as hot and buff as Joan Jett is right now in her fifties, do you think people would give this new band the chance (without mocking) to slither around the stage sing “Cherry Bomb?”  Of course some will answer yes, but I think we can all agree that the vast majority, if the band hadn’t already gathered attention for themselves at a young age and was now performing it while standing on the foundation of that career, would probably not take a chance with a newly-formed band of fifty-year-olds.

Rock-n-roll isn’t only a young person’s scene, but it’s hard to establish yourself once you pass a certain age.

Though who knows who defines that age or what it is.

Which brings us to blogging and a thought I have from time to time.  When will I be too old for blogging?

Unlike rock-n-roll, which is a very visible medium, I can age behind my computer and you’ll never know how much grey is in my hair unless I post a picture.  Writing, in general, is a pretty forgiving art form.  And blogging itself is such a young piece of technology, under fifteen years old, that many (though not all) bloggers are still under fifty, having started in their teen, twenties, and thirties.

Will people read Dooce when she’s fifty or sixty (if she chooses to keep writing)?  Most likely–but will she still have as rabid a following?  It’s hard to say since unlike rock-n-roll, we don’t have a medium old enough to know what happens to aging bloggers.  Is part of her appeal her youth?  After all, take a look at your television line-up: how many Golden Girl-like shows do you see?  The vast majority of older Americans are watching younger Americans (even if by younger I mean in their twenties and thirties) perform.  Shows that contain older characters have them balanced with younger characters.  There just aren’t popular television shows of sixty-somethings-and-older right now.

The reality is that older readers can read younger and get something out of it that doesn’t flow the other way.  When Dooce starts talking about hip replacement, she’s going to lose that younger generation who has no desire to think about how one day, they’re going to need hip replacement too.  Whereas older readers can still connect with a younger writer who is talking about prom or marriage or wanting to build a family because we’ve mostly been there.  We remember prom (if we went) or marriage (if we’re in one) or building a family (cough).  And at some point, while it may not be what we talk about anymore with our peers, it’s something we can relate to in the form of entertainment or education.  And blogs are, by far, either entertaining or illuminating.

Will the Internet age to the point where we have The Society of Elderly Bloggers, an in-group of early adopters that people look up to as the grandparents of the blog with the respect and reverence the younger generation still gives the Beatles?  If I keep blogging, will longevity be what makes me appealing?

Will age not matter at all?  Will good writing and good content simply be good writing and good content and it won’t matter the age of the writer?  Especially if they’re not writing about their hip replacement but are writing on topics more accessible to the general world such as current events.  Will there be enormously popular, clamouring-to-talk-to-them-at-conferences, rock-star bloggers in a wide-range of ages?  Or will the most popular be the twenty-and-thirty-somethings as it is in Hollywood?

By which I mean, while Jon Stewart is well-loved, he certainly doesn’t have to dodge and weave like Robert Pattinson.  And Pattinson’s groupies are not all teenage girls.

And not only when/if-I-will-be-too-old, but is there a starting point that you need to be under in order to explode into a following if you’re starting at the point of obscurity (Arianna Huffington, for instance, already had a foundation to stand on when she started her popular blog, even if her popularity didn’t start with blogging)?

Of course Grandma can start a blog and have the family read it, but is there an age you need to be under to have your blog enter the world of universal appeal?  And forget blogs, think writing in general.  When people talk about hot, new authors, are they ever talking about seventy-year-olds publishing their first book?  Certainly, there are older, popular writers, but when did they start their career and are their later books being received in the same way as their younger works?  Overall?

Do I honestly worry about this?  Not exactly.  Worry is the wrong term.  Muse is more appropriate.  Honestly, what I’m more freaked out about is when the ChickieNob and Wolvog grow up and start their own sites bitching about me.  But it is interesting to make predictions on how the Internet will unfold over the next twenty or thirty years.

17 comments

1 Calliope { 04.25.10 at 12:56 pm }

Put another dime in the jukebox baby!
So my thoughts on this will probably be scattered due to lack of sleep.
But here are my two points:
1) My Mother blogs. I actually got her a website for her birthday. She has a small little following of readers and while she will never be on the cover of Blogging Times (does that even exist) she does get to experience the beauty of an on-line community.
2) Old can be a state of mind. I actually really hope I keep blogging for years and years. I want to be like a hip Rolling Stone tour.

2 T Lee { 04.25.10 at 1:38 pm }

I think when it comes to age things *can* flow the other way, but it’s certainly not as likely. You do have randome occurrances where someone becomes popular to a younger crowd than themselves, most likely due to their content (only example I can come up with at the moment is JK Rowling- not that she’s ‘old- but her core fangroup started much younger then herself)- but it is easier to maintain fame/popularity than to gain it later in life.

It seems to me that part of it is because age is relative; example my favorite band (311) is made up of members all reaching 40 (not old either ladies, just saying)- but when I started listening to them, they were in their mid-20’s. So, to me, they do not seem older, because they are still the same 15ish years my senior as they were when I was younger. Had they been 40 when I was 12 or 13 would I still have fallen head over heels for their amazing music? I don’t know. Maybe- if I had heard it before seeing them in concert- but their shirtless fabulosity may not have grabbed my attention as it did (though, dang do they still look great, haha).

3 Ellen K. { 04.25.10 at 2:29 pm }

I’ve read that high school and college students see blogging as outdated and too slow, preferring Facebook and Twitter. (And people think bloggers are narcissistic!) So I don’t think we’ll have to let the younger ones take the lead anytime soon.

They can pry my blogroll out of my cold dead hands!

4 loribeth { 04.25.10 at 4:11 pm }

Interesting thoughts. I am under 50 — but just barely. (cough) I realize I am probably one of the oldest bloggers on your blogroll. There were no such things as blogs when I was going through my loss or treatments, although there were message boards, etc. I started blogging less than 3 years ago, & it’s been 12 years since my loss & almost 9 years since we stopped IF treatment.

Dh & I saw “The Runaways” a few weeks ago. I am approximately the same age as the band members, give or take a year or two, & I remember them from that time. I didn’t like them then — I was a “good girl,” into the Osmonds & Bay City Rollers (!!) & I think I found them too intimidating/threatening.

But I LOVED Joan Jett when she went solo in the early 80s, & still do — I think it’s fabulous that she’s over 50 & still out there kicking butt. And I loved the movie. I thought it evoked the times & the music very well.

5 Ellen M { 04.25.10 at 6:40 pm }

You know, I worry about this, not as a blogger, but as a person who needs to make a living for many more years. I don’t even work in an industry that specifically favors the young (like music, or acting, or even writing; how many hot-shit new novelists are in their 40s? Is it really because there aren’t many writers who took until then to write their book, or because the way hot shit gets marketed is only if it’s young? oh wait, you already made that point), but I’ve seen people older than me get disregarded pretty fast if they don’t keep up with the latest technology or thinking.

I want to say something hopeful about how you’ll bring your audience with you — and certainly I’ll want to read about other people’s experiences with hip replacements when I get up to that myself — but I think as an earlier commenter wrote, the youngs are going to be on to whatever the next thing is soon enough.

6 Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo { 04.25.10 at 6:55 pm }

I am old enough (actually Joan Jett is like 3 years older than me) to remember the Runaways in their heyday.

All I have to say about this topic is, it is very relevant where I live. In big cities especially there are a lot of older moms parenting younger kids. So, my words, not only resonate but have a ton of life experience and wisdom behind it.

I’ve read Dooce’s blog and well, I think she uses shock factor (as many who self-promote do) to try and “sell her life”.

As for me, my life is my life. Good, bad, ugly, sad, fun, funny, crazy, mayhem. I don’t know if it makes for reading that the “Twihards” would like to read but it sure does strike a chord w/the older 40 crowd who are parenting young ones, the barren ladies, and, those who have lost children and are trying to find their way back from pain.

I am documenting my life and that of my sons. I don’t care if I am ever popular. There are two sites I read religiously and one is Stirrup-Queens because it is my community. The other is SITS ’cause the ladies are fun.

I can’t identify w/the youngs and their struggles because I am past that. I can give wisdom when I see the train wreck starting to happen (having BTDT of course) but the youngs tend to want to do their own thing.

I don’t have an “audience” except for my own self and the things that your site compels me to write, or, life experience compels me to write. If someone finds meaning in my words I am grateful and humbled.

Oldies really are goodies you know!

The grey lady

7 Heather { 04.25.10 at 8:00 pm }

I don’t actually care.

Someday, my kids will read what I have written—both about them and FOR them…

I don’t care about the rest.

8 JJ { 04.25.10 at 8:56 pm }

I have wondered lately if my blog will ‘age’ out…
But then I just hit publish again.
And thats all that really matters to me :) And Ill be reading your blog, Mel, when you are 90!

9 IF Crossroads { 04.25.10 at 9:00 pm }

I’ve thought about this from the standpoint of my profession. I’ve seen people aged-out of my line of work simply because they are deemed out of touch with society. But what I feel people in those hiring/firing decisions never take into account is the amount of experience that the older employees have in their profession – and I truly believe older IS wiser in many cases.
For the blogging community, I’ve learned so much from the older more wiser bloggers. I’ve learned how to be a better blogger and how to interact and communicate with my audience. There will always be that generation of older and wisers that will offer guidance and support. But, like you said, you can hide your literal age behind a computer monitor and noone will ever see how old you really are (or aren’t for that matter!). The true decision about when to stop will be when you, the blogger, decide that your content is irrelevant and off topic. Unless you don’t care who is following … and if that is the case, you can still continue to write for as long as your heart desires.

10 a { 04.25.10 at 9:17 pm }

I find myself cringing every time I see the Rolling Stones or U2 or Madonna performing. Music is a young person’s game. Reading and writing? I think it depends on what you put out there. If it’s relevant, people will read it, regardless of how old people are.

FWIW, I think you are one of the timeless ones…

11 Mrs. Gamgee { 04.25.10 at 11:43 pm }

I know that my blog isn’t going to have a cultural impact, but I really hope I’m still writing in 25 years…

And as for author’s who get their start later in years, I know they may not be many, but one of my new favourite authors, Alan Bradley, won a British mystery writers award and his first contract for a 5 book series in his 60s. He’s just getting started. :)

12 S.I.F. { 04.26.10 at 3:15 am }

I cannot WAIT to see this movie!!

And I will totally still read you when you’re 50… I’m just saying! :)

13 Bozoette Mary { 04.26.10 at 7:07 am }

I started blogging at 50 – back then (in the olden days) “blogging” was called “online journaling” – and I’m now 58. There are a lot of us out there; just check out the blogroll on timegoesby.net. Maybe we’re talking to ourselves, but our posts are not only about joint replacements or complaining about those kids on our lawns. Check a few out. You might be pleasantly surprised.

14 Bea { 04.26.10 at 9:12 am }

Not to sound too cynical, but I think it largely comes down to money. Youth pays, at least when it comes to mass-marketed popular culture, so that’s what we get. But there are plenty of older people around and some of them even have money these days, it’s just that people are, in many ways, more unique at 50 than they were at 15 or 20, so the market is a little more hidden and fragmented. And if your currency is readership and comments, that’s even harder to project, given the new tech and the readership growing older with you.

As for being able to relate better to younger readers because you’ve been there – sure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to rehash it all again after you’ve put that chapter of your life to bed. I see the complaint, of every agegroup, that no other agegroup ever wants to hear what they have to say, largely being expanded to the internet, save for a proportion of people who have that rare talent of being broadly inspiring – much as the case is today. Those who are broadly inspiring do tend to start showing it young, it is true – more a case of, if you don’t got it at 20, you’re probably not gunna fetch it by 50. Although anything could happen.

Bea

15 Kristin { 04.26.10 at 4:47 pm }

What an interesting thing to think about. Like JJ said, I’ll be reading your blog when we’re both old and gray. I also know I’ll be writing then. Who knows about the mass appeal part of it though.

16 Bea { 04.26.10 at 7:18 pm }

I’ve had another think, and I think it has more to do with topic. Will you become too old for blogging? You will probably become too old, at some point, to blog about going through infertility. It could be done at any age, but probably not.

You could, of course, still blog about other aspects of infertility – from the grandparent view, most obviously – or you could change your topic entirely and the age of your audience would reflect that new topic (your life = mostly readers of the same life-stage; something like travelling or cinematography would have wider appeal). As with TV or music, your mass-market appeal might be hard to establish later, because I still think youth is peculiarly susceptible to mass-marketing, and afterwards you rely on the nostalgia effect.

But too old for blogging? No.

Bea

17 B { 04.27.10 at 4:55 am }

I set my dad up a blog and he’s 72. He was having a lot of thoughts about facing his own mortality and it is a topic that I’m very curious to know about- how people, in the end, do or don’t face up to their own death. I think it holds incredible drama and I would love to read blogs on this, particularly if they were well written.

There is also the question of if blogging will still be a thing… or if it will have become a different thing. And also, as the bloggers age, (not to mention the average age of the population) the readership will age, and we prob will all be interested in the ins and outs of hip replacements and which type of anesthesia causes the least nausea when we are 70.

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