Martin Waxman

Social Media, Boomers, and Rock and Roll

By: Martin Waxman | March 26, 2014 | 
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3755912415_4656a97e5f_mBy Martin Waxman

Not long ago, we watched the Tonight Show pass the baton (mic?) to Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon is the first mainstream host to use social media as a built-in part of his comedy stylings: Vaudeville meets high-def showbiz.

His premiere featured one of my favorite comics, a veteran of standup, a sitcom and now the online screen with his very mobile series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee – the funny and boomerish, Jerry Seinfeld.

I was excited to watch the interplay between Seinfeld and Fallon, especially because Fallon does a mean Seinfeld impression, and I wondered how Seinfeld would react.

Seinfeld and Social Media

It started traditionally with Fallon’s introduction and Seinfeld confidently taking the stage and launching into his routine.

It was new stuff, and his delivery was sharp and polished, but I was surprised by what the great Mr. S. was talking about.

The gist of the material was: ‘What’s with the kids these days? They’ve all got these phones and never use them to make a call… I just don’t get it…’

Of course it was more entertaining than that.

But watching it, I was struck by two things:

  1. Jerry Seinfeld appeals to his aging generation, that is, boomers – and he’s now become what I would call a Mom and Dad comic, in the same way cigar-chomping Alan King was one of those kinds of performers when I was growing up. I always found King funny, but didn’t really relate to his humor.
  2. The essence of Seinfeld’s material was similar to King’s ‘I-don’t-get-young-people’ schtick. It was a little patronizing, in the same way an adult looks at a child doing something, shakes their head, and smiles a bemused smile that means, ‘the kid doesn’t know anything, just wait till they’ve been around as long as I have, then they’ll see…’

And it dawned on me: Boomers react to social media the way their parents reacted to rock music.

Social Media is Not a Fad

Many just don’t know what to make of it, think of it as a lot of useless noise (and in some ways, it is), and hope it will just fade away. Or at least that someone will turn down the volume so they aren’t confronted by it all the time!

There are several reasons for this:

  • Having not grown up with it, boomers view social media as simply too faddish; why bother understanding something if it’s just going to be a flash in the pan?
  • It’s uncharted and unfamiliar territory, and too much work to learn something new.
  • It’s natural for people to gravitate to what we know and like, and tough to give up on the safe and comfortable. Or, as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons so eloquently put it, boomers are simply ‘hanging on to what they have.

All of this makes sense. Boomers, like every grown up generation before them, doesn’t see why the world they love has to change and they, in turn, need to alter the way they do things.

Give Boomers a Break

Next time you see a boomer express complete disdain for social media, please be gentle.

Remind them phones have uses other than talking, there’s nothing wrong with being connected, and you’re just sharing photos electronically instead of pulling them out of your wallet.

And then suggest that maybe they’ve become that part of their parents they said they would never be.

That might strike more than an air guitar chord.

Photo Credit: Dιvα ♥ ” via Compfight cc

About Martin Waxman


Martin Waxman is executive vice president for our Canadian partner firm, Thornley Fallis. He is a social media and communications strategist, founder of three PR agencies, blogger at myPALETTE, Inside PR co-host, social media instructor, and former fiction writer, comedy MC, and Winnipegger.

  • This reminds me of a conversation I had with my parents just last night. They were asking me about Twitter — about retweets and favorites — and as simply as I explained it, they still just didn’t get it. But I understand. 
    I’m sure one of these days it’ll be my turn, where my kids make fun of me for not understanding certain changes in technology. I already know of one our generation isn’t going to like as much — automated cars. We’re old enough to enjoy driving ourselves. But when that finally changes into a full-grown computer-operated network, we’re definitely going to hold an air of suspicion for technology’s “dependability” then. 
    I’ll bet on it.

  • JRHalloran  Thanks JR. I think the important thing is to keep an open mind and try new things – no matter how old you are. And, sometimes you need to accept that it may take some time till you catch on.

    And regarding cars that drive themselves? I’m ready now!

  • Thanks martinwaxman for making this old boomer feel better about the continual quest to learn the technology of the constantly evolving social media. I know it shocks my nieces and nephews to hear that I didn’t put my hands on a computer till several years after college and even then most of the input work was done by administrative help (there were not any social media managers in those days;) I may be closing my casket still chanting “I’ll get it” but at least I will keep it open a crack for learning.

  • martinwaxman  Haha! I would be, too. But I’d like to see this computer-operated car network run through its bloody “glitch” period first. Then, once it’s glitch-proof, I’ll get in an automated car. 
    But eh — I like to drive. I’ll be okay if I never live to see that.  😛

  • annelizhannan That’s great to hear. And it’s important to keep trying! I know I stumble around new platform a lot more than my kids – but then it levels off and we start to learn from each other. Thanks!

  • Martin’s back!!!! Loved this piece Martin, though you made me feel old. 🙁

  • Martin Waxman

    I kinda relate 🙂

  • martinwaxman I knew there was a reason I should have procreated 😉

  • I was just remarking on this the other day. Hopefully it wasn’t here so I’m not repeating myself. But as someone who has seen every episode of Seinfeld at least 20 times, my disappointment in his act the past few years is profound.
    His bits have become strained and way too “get-off-my-lawn” like. I dream of a Seinfeld forever trapped in amber, before the cell phone and social media era. I can barely relate to him now, so I can’t imagine what “tha yooth” must think of this old dude harping about Facebook.
    And let’s not even mention The Marriage Ref.
    It’s too bad because the documentary he did, Comedian, was brilliant, with lessons for people in any line of endeavor about the value of hard work and perfecting your craft.

  • rdopping

    You must be older than me martinwaxman I am just on the cusp of the Boomer gen. Born in 1965 so I could swing both ways…….but, you know, I have just a wee bit of disdain for the Boomer get set….nothing overtly serious but just what you spoke about. 

    You’re never too old to try something new…..or are you?

  • belllindsay  It’s great to be back. Oh – Thanks and sorry, Lindsay! A typical Canadian greeting!

  • RobBiesenbach  Thanks Rob. You know – I wonder if Louis CK has taken that role as cultural observer. He’s critically funny, not borderline out of touch funny. And that’s why he can appeal to a wide age range – the way Seinfeld used to.

  • rdopping I am older than you. And I apologize for my generation – or parts of it :).

    I don’t think you’re ever too old to try new things – it might take longer to get the hang of them, but that’s OK.

  • martinwaxman Interesting. I wonder if Seinfeld’s comedy was also more “universal” then or if I’m just looking at it through the lens of nostalgia? Totally agree on Louis CK.

  • Great post! Please allow me to geek it up a bit and suggest it is less about age and more about a fixed vs open mindset, perhaps. Certainly you are in the know digitally, and one of my E.F.F.’s (my new thing if I’ve met someone online and not in the real) Robby is almost 90, and blogs regularly. My mum loves her ipad, my dad feels technology peaked with David’s Midnight Magic on the Commodore 64. And I know that my nieces and nephews already find some of my approaches ridiculously antiquated. And now I don’t know my point…I guess that comes with age, too. I am going to try and make the Spin Sucks book launch in TO- hope to see you!

  • martinwaxman JRHalloran  Hah I read further on in the comments and found this conversation…exactly! I am not sure it is totally age related, more about being open to newness and learning.

  • annelizhannan martinwaxman not to sounded jaded but there are definitely easier ways to learn new platforms withoout procreating – easier on your heart and pocketbook <grin> <parent of two teens speaking at a time of stress> 🙂

  • biggreenpen I know so well, I am from a large Irish Catholic family, children are everywhere 😉

  • RebeccaTodd  Thanks Rebecca! I like EFF a lot. 

    You’re so right about it coming down to attitude – and the important thing is keeping an open mind about everything regardless of age. And sometimes, it’s too easy to fall into the ‘I do things this way’ mentality. We all have to fight against that!

  • Excellent comparison, and it makes me feel old that Seinfeld is OLD. It’s interesting, because of how much I use technology I’m with shellykramer on this one – I feel more like a Millennial.

  • AmyMccTobin shellykramer  I’m with both of you on that! Thanks Amy!

  • RobBiesenbach I think it was… That’s why the Seinfeld shows still work, IMHO…

  • martinwaxman RebeccaTodd  Especially when we all know that the right way is my way.

  • LauraPetrolino Of course, of course. That’s what I meant :). RebeccaTodd

  • BillSmith3

    Interesting post Martin, and I don’t think it’s just a cut and dried “The Boomers don’t get social media.” It comes down are you comfortable with digital communications or not. Case in point   my 76 year old mom, can’t turn on a computer to save her life  meanwhile my 82 year old uncle in London England has a Samsung Galaxy and uses Facebook like a Digital Native. 

    The big thing is not just a comfort level with social media but the digital divide itself which has big implications for the North American economy.

  • BillSmith3 Thanks Bill. It is a complex and multi-faceted issue, Great point about the digital divide. Hopefully we can find a way to bridge that. I guess that’s where millennials can help guide the older generations along – and the older ones will need to keep an open mind…

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