In his recent post over at the Changing Aging blog, Kavan Peterson describes a short video, Forwarders. Intended as a parody of people who continuously forward e-mail, the video reinforces stereotypes about elders and aging. It’s sad that this short film focuses solely on one older adult, especially since so many people of all ages are extreme (and irritating) forwarders.
While it’s intended to be funny, the video’s other message is that old people with wrinkles are silly and inept — at least that’s my interpretation. I’ll bet that the video producer — I am guessing an adolescent or young adult — probably cherishes a fair number of lifelong relationships with elders. This parody promotes a stereotype that could have been alleviated simply by adding in a few younger characters who also need reforming. (I posit a guess about the creator/producer’s age after looking over other published web content.)
The video and others like it also raise a question. How do we help individuals who are Internet content “whizzes” to understand that everything uploaded is subject to interpretation?
As a teacher who concentrates on educational technology, I frequently hear the refrain, “But I did not mean to hurt that person,” usually after a student has created and uploaded what he or she considered to be amusing content. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes various readers or viewers interpret the message differently. What my students slowly learn is that digital content may be funny to one person, not funny to another, and for some individuals downright insulting.
In today’s connected society digital natives — born into a world of computers, cell phones, and various other gadgets — find it easy to create content, but sometimes they forget that what they do and say (and upload) circulates far and wide. Different people will watch and may reach different conclusions about the work. One person’s joke can unintentionally malign others. Humor that is appropriate for a person at one age is not so funny when it’s uploaded into the world at large for everyone to see. Digital natives need to learn and respect the ways that different people view the world through slightly different lenses. Most professional writers of parody think long and hard about every detail of a project, interchanging those lenses as they create.