Virtual Youth

Last night I watched CSI Miami “How Could You”. It was a case of mistaken identity that went wrong. An older man, posing as a younger man, made a chat connection with a younger woman, who was really an older woman, posing as a younger woman. Are you still with me? Neither of the older persons was too happy when they finally met FTF, face-to-face, each presuming they would be hooking up with a younger person. Eventually, it led to murder.
But I was more struck by how, in age, the attentions of a younger suitor can be such a powerful force. Both of the older characters in the episode had attractive spouses, but they were carried away by the virtual thrill of ‘hooking up’ with a younger person. Those assignations in the chat room made them somehow believe that they were 18 again and the idea proved irresistible leading to doom for both of them. It brings to mind how often we do things, as we age, to recapture the thrill of youth. Part of that is due to how the society tends to view youth and old age. There is no doubt we are a youth-oriented culture. My students last semester, by a bare majority vote, did think the image of older people in the media overall was improving, but all agreed we are still youth-oriented. How sad that we have so few TV shows that offer us characters who are trying to act older than they are.
The other thought I had was how the Internet can mask our age. So if we are looking to combat some of the discrimination based on age, the ageism of our society, perhaps the Internet can be a tool to thwart that bias. In this case, it was not used to good effect, but I can see situations of consulting and contract employment where the anonymity that the Internet can provide could work in favor of older persons in this young society. The potential is there to judge proposals for work, and work itself, based on the outcomes and not on the person. I am not advocating that an older worker portray themselves as a younger worker when seeking jobs on the Internet. I do think the Internet may provide an ‘age-neutral’ environment which may limit age discrimination. Of course, that means that older people using it as such will have to master the tools of a younger generation and perhaps that does indeed make us younger.