by Ellen Brandt. Ph.D.

When her elderly parents became ill, she gave up her job, her security, and her comfortable middle-class existence. If something isn’t done soon, she says, Baby Boomers will become the New Poor.

Many Boomers are devoted to their aged parents. But my friend Suellen stands out as a model of filial dedication. Five years ago, when her Dad became too sick from Alzheimer’s disease for her mother to cope alone, Suellen quit her full-time accounting job and moved into her parents’ apartment.

“Dad was lucid enough to be adamant about not leaving home,” she tells me. “And Mom absolutely refused to shut him away from her. Unfortunately, she was getting progressively more frail, too.”

While Suellen, who is in her mid-50s and single, was not only happy but proud to put her life on hold to make her parents’ lives better, from Day One, she heard from a variety of busybodies who loudly disagreed with her decision. Distant relatives, people in the neighborhood, and “friends” of all shapes and forms chided her for a decision they felt was “unrealistic” and “destructive of her life.”

“The general message was that in the United States, the proper way to handle this kind of situation would be to put your Dad in a nursing home, tell your Mom to learn to live with it, and go back to earning as much money as you can to pay for it,” Suellen says. “Some people said I should bite the bullet and take two or three jobs, if necessary, which would have meant I never saw my parents at all.”

She stuck to her guns and kept her family together, losing emotional support from the naysayers in the process. When her Dad died two years ago, even some of his closest relatives refused to visit Suellen and her Mom when they were “sitting Shiva,” the Jewish custom of mourning at home. “Yes, it was pretty shocking,” she says, in what sounds like a big understatement.

Suellen’s stubbornness – and courage – are characteristic of this feisty Brooklyn girl, whose compassion and intelligence are apparent in every word she utters. As an only child, she was the apple of her parents’ eye. “Of course, I wanted to return their love and caring when they were the ones in need.

“In nearly every other country in the world,” she goes on, “sons and daughters are expected to take in and lovingly care for aged parents who become sick or helpless. That’s what you do. And it benefits all involved – the parents, the children, any grandchildren in the household. Only in America are we actively encouraged to give Mom and Dad the heave-ho.”

Attracted to the Tropics

Over the past decade or so – even before her parents’ health crises – Suellen became attracted to the idea of joining the growing community of Boomer ex-patriates in the Caribbean and Latin America. This reverse emigration is occurring, she believes, because in many cases, it is much cheaper to live abroad, while the intangible “quality of life” may actually be more appealing abroad than on the Mainland.

When her Dad became seriously frail, she made a trip to Panama – a popular ex-pat haven – and tried to persuade her parents to relocate with her there. “My mother was reluctant,” she explains. “She thought the environment would simply be too foreign. But lately, she’s changed her mind, telling me, ‘You know, Sue, maybe we should have done it.’ ”

Back home in Brooklyn, Suellen and her mother, a former secretary – her Dad owned a limousine service – are struggling to survive. For one thing, they could get evicted. “My parents were renters, because they loved their classic Brooklyn building. With recent inflation and a limited income, though, it’s tough keeping up.”

There are also problems with utilities. The electric company, for example, touts its “senior discount” to all and sundry. But they won’t allow Suellen’s mid-80’s mother to have one, because her monthly Social Security check is too high. “It’s under $1400. But to them, it’s a king’s ransom,” she quips. “These so-called authorities are living in La-La-Land. They don’t understand that there are all sorts of health and other very basic expenses that the standard programs just don’t cover. My Mom has to visit some kind of health practitioner nearly every week, for instance. Just the transportation to and fro is a burden.”

Suellen herself can no longer afford private health insurance, and she is too young to be eligible for government programs. A long-term breast cancer survivor, she should be going in for regular check-ups but hasn’t been able to do so for over a year.

A while ago, she applied to a religious-based charity which was widely touted as helping out those who were “falling through the cracks” in terms of healthcare protection. “It was a humiliating experience,” she reports. “The representative they sent to visit us commented on my Mom’s ‘high’ Social Security income, as well as the general attractiveness of our apartment and our dress. Then she demanded to know what we were eating, as if we must clearly be squandering our meager income on lobster, caviar, and champagne.”

Needless to say, the charity turned them down.

We’re Here, We’re Angry, We’re Compassionate

Suellen is outraged at what she calls a “Culture of Meanness” permeating the US right now. “Income disparity is becoming too striking to be ignored much longer,” she feels. “There are the few who are obscenely wealthy and the many who are struggling to make ends meet – a large proportion of whom are Boomers.”

Our generation, she believes, has to acknowledge that if we do not unite and act together, we could be in big trouble just up the road. “My family’s story is anything but atypical,” she says. “What happened to me could happen to nearly any Boomer with elderly parents. One day, you’re comfortably middle-class. The next day, you’re part of the New Poor.”

Although a lifelong Democrat, Suellen is so far unimpressed with either major party’s approach to what could be a coming healthcare crisis for elderly Americans and those who take care of them. “Instead of rabid partisanship, we need honest discussion and compromise on this issue,” she believes. “And we have to consider not just the situation today, but also the situation twenty years from now, when Boomers themselves will be elderly.”

Suellen finds herself moving more and more towards the center of the political spectrum today, where she believes the majority of Baby Boomers now are. “Very few Boomers are on the fringes,” she says. “We are Centrist Republicans, Centrist Democrats, or Centrist Independents – but they key word is Centrist.”

She’s also disturbed and concerned by the ongoing propaganda campaign which seeks to brand the Boomer generation as a whole as inward-looking and selfish. “I think the exact opposite is true,” she says. “There are exceptions, of course, but most Boomers are concerned, compassionate, and caring. Look at our record on civil rights, women’s rights, volunteerism – or pure political activism.

“In fact, Boomers have possibly cared too much about righting every wrong in the country except those wrongs directed at us. It’s high time we demanded some reciprocal compassion towards our own generation.”

What Do You Think?

Have you had to decide whether or not to place a frail, elderly parent in a nursing home or assisted-living facility? Tell us your story.

What do you think of Suellen’s decision to put her career on hold caring for her parents?

Do you agree that most other countries in the world respect and revere the elderly more than we do in the US?

Are government agencies and charities all wrong when they evaluate which elderly people need help and which don’t?

Do you agree with Suellen that those of different political opinions need to compromise to ward off a healthcare crisis caring for our aged population?

Are Boomers not only the Angriest Generation right now, but possibly also the Most Compassionate?

For the Introduction to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For Ellen’s take on activities for the elderly, Summer Camp for Seniors: http://wp.me/pycK6-t

For Ellen’s idea of a University for Elders: http://wp.me/pycK6-v

For “Recession? What Recession? Not in the Senior Services Sector,” go to: http://wp.me/pycK6-p

Love After 50 – New Series

September 5, 2009

Beginning next week, look for Love After 50, a delightful and useful new series from Matchmaker-to-Boomers Annie Robbins and Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation publisher Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Building on the surprising – and encouraging – new statistics, which show that over half of all Boomer men and women are now single, Love After 50 will feature an entertaining, often humorous, but extraordinarily helpful, series of articles.

You’ll hear from psychologists, dating experts, social mavens, and other professionals. But we’ll also depend on our Boomer readers, who are actually out there on the battlefield of mature dating and romance.

Although in no way a commercial venture, nor formally linked to any dating service or company, we hope that as the series evolves, we’ll form a supportive, friendly, and truly intelligent on-line community of mature daters, who may choose to establish friendships – maybe even romantic ones – among fellow participants.

Since Annie and Ellen have distinctly different networks and audiences at this time, we’ve decided to release all articles simultaneously on Ellen’s site EllenInteractive and Annie’s Relationships blog at her company LifeWorks.

Comment streams at each site will be transferred and blended so that a true community can evolve quickly.

We’ll post links here and at Annie’s site when the first story in the series is published.

Romantically Yours,

Annie and Ellen

Photo not printing correctly. Will replace. Sorry.

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

The Good News: More than half of all Baby Boomers are single. The Bad News: Hey! there isn’t any! If you’re a Baby Boomer, and you want to find new love or companionship, you can do it. And the current sea change in our national and personal value systems makes it easier.

“Even I am surprised at the statistics – and I’m a professional,” exclaims Ann “Annie” Robbins, the glamorous Boomer who heads LifeWorks, a matchmaking service with most clients over 40, in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida.

She’s referring to the most recent data from the US Census Bureau, which confirms that more than half of all Baby Boomers, who turn 46-63 in 2009, are now single. The stats are somewhat affected by the fact that gay people, who may account for 8-10 percent of the Boomer population, are generally grouped with the “never married,” while the big spurt in “widowed” among Boomer women over 55 reflects the fact that some of them were married to older men.

Nevertheless, over 40 million of the 80 million or so Boomers in the US – the proportion is similar in Canada – are now officially absent from the ranks of the married. That is fabulous news, of course, for someone like Annie Robbins, who makes her living counseling and aiding those looking for “significant others.”

But it’s also terrific news for Boomers themselves. “If you’re open to new love, you can find it,” says Annie. “And increasingly, we Boomers do.”

She’s living proof. Engaged a few months ago to former adman, current salesman, and sexy widower Steve Gordon, Annie is getting married a few weeks from now, about ten years to the day she suffered the tragedy of her life, becoming a widow at age 47. Husband Richard, an athlete and avid runner, who jogged 30 miles a week, was stricken, seemingly out of the blue, with asbestos-related cancer, possibly linked to his job in the hotel business, where he often supervised new construction. He died less than three months after his diagnosis, entering the hospital on daughter Angela’s 17th birthday. Younger daughter Jessica was only 12.

Annie was too much in shock to think of dating for about three years. A consultant in the human resources industry, where she specialized in executive coaching, career transitions, and sales and leadership training, she finally decided to seek out romance when she turned 50 – and promptly made every mistake in the book!

“I was scammed by fly-by-night dating services. I had terrible experiences with amateur on-line sites. I attended all the wrong mixers and singles groups, where I had nothing in common with anyone there.”

You Don’t Have To Kiss Frogs – Unless You Want To

She recalls one particularly unappetizing encounter with a man a supposedly reputable dating service hand-picked for her. “We arranged to meet in a wine bar in Orlando,” Annie relates. “My date was almost a half-hour late, so I was just about to leave in disgust, when the door swept open, and this strange individual walked towards me. I remember inwardly praying like a small child, ‘Please, please, don’t let it be him.’ ”

The dating service’s perfect match was a very large man in khaki shorts, a soiled tee-shirt, and rubber flip flops, with a bushy beard down to his waist and two teeth missing. His tardiness provided the perfect excuse for Annie’s claiming another pressing appointment and leaving posthaste. When she told me this story, I wondered aloud if Mr. Flip Flop might have been a quirky zillionaire computer guru – possibly Paul Allen – but she pooh-poohed the suggestion.

After several years of dismaying dating experiences, Annie started dabbling in the matchmaking trade, which she decided should be based on similar principles to the useful and compassionate counseling she gave executives switching careers. She left her day job to become a full-time matchmaker two years ago.

“If you truly wish to connect, you should approach it seriously and honestly,” she observes. “Do some heavy soul-searching before you start out. What mistakes have you made in past relationships or marriages? How are going to avoid them going forward? What are the the non-negotiables – values and characteristics your compatible match must have? And which things are less important?”

While Annie met Steve through mutual friends, there are many other ways to meet your match. But you have to decide to do it. “You’re not going to meet anybody living in a cave,” cautions Annie. “Get out in the world and shake up your usual routine.”

Even small variations in daily activities can place you in the path of Ms. or Mr. Interesting. “If you tend to patronize a certain coffee shop, make a conscious decision to go to another. Instead of walking in the same park every lunch hour, try a different park – or bowling alley or restaurant or grocery store – tomorrow.”

Doing what you’re really passionate about – even if you haven’t done it lately – is a tried and true formula for connecting with like-minded people. One 50-something woman Annie knows was a superb ballroom dancer, but dropped dance completely after a bitter divorce. Last year, she took some inexpensive tango lessons at a community center, met a charming man who also loved to dance, and the two have been tripping the light fantastically ever since.

A successful but shy attorney in Annie’s neighborhood, who’s a passionate runner, wanted to meet a wholesome and physically fit woman. But he had trouble finding one through his running clubs, because – well, you’re moving too fast. He decided to join Habitat for Humanity, on the theory it would attract those who were both fit and spiritually-minded. Sure enough, he found a lovely, athletic high school teacher, with whom he’s building a relationship, as well as houses.

Can following the shared-interest route ever backfire? “Yes,” says Annie, “I have a friend who had always had an interest in hunting. She bit the bullet, as it were, joining a rifle club, only to discover that she was too scared to pull the trigger. Terrified, actually.”

Tough Times, Tender Boomers?

I have to ask: What does Annie think of the mesmerizing, horrifying hit show, The Millionaire Matchmaker, on Bravo TV? Personally, I quite like the Matchmaker herself, Patti Stanger, because she’s both funny and media-savvy. Her average client, though, combines the sterling ethics of Gordon Gekko with the tender conscience of Cruella de Vil and the pleasing personality of Hannibal Lecter.

“There are firms down here in Florida which actually brag about matching ‘millionaire men’ with ‘supermodel women,’ ” Annie says. “It’s not only pretty silly, it’s a major turn off for most clients. I’ve had many clients who said they visited one of these firms, were dismayed at their shallowness, and then came to me.”

Does that mean men and women, particularly Boomers, are returning to sensible – and healthy – standards for choosing the Loves of Their Lives? “We may be experiencing a sea change in this nation’s – and our generation’s – value systems,” says Annie – and many agree with her. The cumulative effect of the dishonesty, greed, corporate scandals, and political inertia of the past several years may have finally taken their toll. In these suddenly hard times, the vast majority of Boomers seem to be concentrating on the things in life that are truly important – security, family, relationships, achievement, and spiritual values.

In terms of romance, we’re turning away from an emphasis on the superficial and transitory, and seeking partners who are intellectually and ethically compatible and share our long-term goals.

“Steve and I are good examples of that,” says Annie. Widowed after a happy marriage, Steve was not interested in meeting much younger women. “I wanted – and needed – someone at the same stage of life, who had gone through similar experiences,” he says.

Annie, meanwhile, realized she had no real interest in great wealth or in dating captains of industry. She chose Steve, because he’s “kind and caring, with a terrific sense of humor.” Soon after they’d first met, she kept canceling date after date because of a series of business and family crises. “Many other men would have dropped me then and there,” she says. “Steve’s first thought was, ‘How can I help her get through some difficult days?’ He was unbelievably considerate and thoughtful.”

(For Annie and Steve’s engagement photo, click here: http://wp.me/pxD3J-W )

Annie believes the characteristics that have distinguished Baby Boomers through the years will serve us well if we choose to pursue later-in-life romance. “Boomers are organized, energetic, well-educated, and entrepreneurial,” she says. “If we apply those traits to the pursuit of lasting relationships, we have a good chance of getting what we want.”

Add in the shift to kinder, gentler values and demographics that suddenly favor the mature dater. In our love lives, at least, the Boomer outlook may be downright rosy.

What Do You Think?

Are you surprised so many Baby Boomers are single? If you are currently single, does it change your outlook on whether to seek new love and companionship going forward?

Is dating easier or more difficult now than when you were younger? What advantages do you think you have as a Boomer seeking a mate? What obstacles do you think you face?

Do you agree with Annie’s contention that Boomers’ strengths as business people and entrepreneurs can translate into romantic success?

Is the United States embracing traditional values again, finally eschewing the glorification of greed and superficiality? Will this have a major impact on Boomers, particularly in the realm of relationships and romance?

For the Intro to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For a story on a Baby Boomer couple who suffered a million dollar loss when “Pariah Corporation” imploded, see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-N

A Chance For Romance also serves as an Introduction to a new series called Love After 50, jointly written by Matchmaker-to-Boomers Annie Robbins and Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation publisher Ellen Brandt, Ph.D. For more, please see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-Y

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

With close to 65 years of big-company experience between them, this perfect corporate couple kept their noses to the grindstone and their feet on the ground – until they lost a million dollars one very bad afternoon.

“Call me naive, but I really believed in the Myth of Corporate America,” Melissa tells me. At 50, she is still a Texas belle, charming and well-mannered. It’s easy to see why she fit in so well as a big-company manager, serving 27 years in one industry, until her entire division was disbanded, virtually overnight, in August 2007.

Since then, she’s made do with consulting jobs in her specialty area of housing industry software, but “each contract has become progressively less lucrative,” she says. Attempts to get back to full-time work have been rebuffed with responses along the lines of, “You’re too senior for this position,” or “Your experience is too specialized.”

Melissa thinks her story is “very typical of what so many Baby Boomers are going through right now. We put in decades of hard work and dedication to companies that have either suddenly shut down or not come close to showing the loyalty they expected and required of us. Not only was there no gold watch. In many cases, there was neither a warning nor so much as a thank you.”

Her husband Phil is still employed. But as a First Boomer of 63, less than two years from his company’s formal retirement age, he’s “sitting on pins and needles” waiting to see how long his division will stay afloat. It’s up for sale. And he’s been told that if it isn’t purchased by the end of this year, its parent company will shut it down forever.

That parent company – let’s call it Pariah Corporation – has virtually imploded over the past year or so, one of the twenty or so big companies in the financial services sector which quickly descended from Powerhouse to Poorhouse for reasons both general and specific. Externally, they fell victim to worldwide recession, the massive market meltdown, and a rapid shrinking of consumer and corporate demand. Internally, Pariah and its Shameful Brethren were wracked by scandals, incompetence, internecine feuds, and executive suite greed unmatched since the days of the Gilded Age robber barons – although with tales of gluttony, orgies, drunken revelry, and toga parties, maybe the Roman Empire is a better analogy.

‘Twasn’t always so. Phil, a lanky Arizonan, spent over half of his near-40 corporate years with Pariah, and he remembers how thrilled his parents were when they heard about his first job there. “We’re so proud of you, Son,” Phil’s Dad told him. “There’s no better company in America than Pariah.” Adds Phil, “At that time, he was probably right. Our founder was considered one of the titans and visionaries in financial services. Pariah was respected and revered, not just here, but around the globe.”

Since its downfall, however, Pariah’s managers, even those far from the boardroom and free from blame or scandal, have been subjected to escalating harassment from the general public. “There have been some death threats,” says Phil. “A few of my colleagues have been accosted by irate shareholders. One man I know was literally beaten up in an airport lounge.”

Some Pariah employees conceal where they work from friends and neighbors. Phil doesn’t do that, but he finds it depressing that while once upon a time, “you said you were with Pariah, and everyone looked at you with admiration. Now they look at you with pity or scorn.”

Gutted Accounts, Dreams on Hold

Phil has more than simple scorn to be depressed about. Over decades of service to Pariah, he’d amassed stock options that were worth a cool million dollars – until one afternoon last autumn, when the company’s stock turned into confetti, taking Phil’s nest egg along with it.

“It represented our dreams of a worry-free retirement,” he says. Melissa is an accomplished cook, and the couple had hoped to spend their golden years running a small inn or bed-and-breakfast. If they decide to do that now, it will have to be with the help of bank loans, mortgages, and the financial obligations they entail.

Despite years of respectable earnings, an extravagant lifestyle hasn’t been in the cards for Phil and Melissa since their respective companies relocated them to northern California eight years ago. Previously living in the southeast, they found California so outrageously expensive, they decided to rent a modest townhouse, rather than buy a new home.

That seems a prudent decision after the housing crash. But it also means Melissa and Phil won’t have equity in a home to cash in, if they decide to relocate a few years from now. And though they certainly don’t begrudge it, in retrospect, they’ve spent an enormous proportion of their life’s earnings educating Phil’s three children from a previous marriage, who now range in age from 22 to 35.

The kids attended top-notch universities and graduate schools, which cost a not-so-small fortune these days. “Our youngest daughter, Allison, graduated last spring,” says Phil. “One year of her tuition cost as much as a nice-sized house – or maybe a small island – did thirty years ago.”

Even with that fancy education, Allison has had trouble finding lucrative work – as has Melissa since her layoff. “We’ve heard the stories about bratty Millennials dissing Boomers and scheming to take our jobs,” Melissa says. “But good kids like ours empathize with Boomers, because they’re in the same boat. There aren’t enough jobs now, no matter what your age.”

Melissa thinks the nature of work may change for many Boomers in the years ahead. “So many of us feel betrayed by big companies, I think we now have mindsets that are both defensive and proactive.” She sees herself having a “portfolio career” from now on, where she does “a little of this and a little of that.”

While continuing to accept software assignments that come her way, she’s also earning a real estate license and is taking courses towards becoming an holistic nutrition educator and consultant.

Melissa and Phil sense they’re in a transitional stage, both in their careers and in their lives. “Solidity and permanence just aren’t there any longer,” says Phil. Although still an employee – for now – he shares his wife’s disenchantment with a corporate career and where it has taken him.

“You go into corporate life seeking recognition and security,” he says. “You work extremely hard, move around the country, make all sorts of sacrifices – only to see it shatter to pieces.”

“We’re questioning whether we should have been there in the first place,” Melissa adds. “At this point, we are truly disappointed.”

What Do You Think?

Do you work – or have you worked – for one of the Pariah Corporations in the financial services sector? Tell us about your experience.

Are you disenchanted, discouraged, or disappointed about spending your life in the big-company sector?

In retrospect, are you sorry you didn’t work for a smaller company or become an entrepreneur?

Do you think you made too many sacrifices – like moving frequently – because your company told you to?

Have you been hit by a stock options or 401-K meltdown like Phil’s?

Has paying your kids’ college tuitions taken a toll on your savings?

For the Introduction to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For Ellen’s hard-hitting piece on Anti-Boomer Propaganda, see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-8

For a related story on Financial Re-Engineering: http://wp.me/pxD3J-B

To hear about How Boomers May Save Twitter: http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

The twin forces which could destroy Twitter are immature game-playing and political correctness, both taken to unreasonable – and sometimes illegal – extremes. The antidotes? Maturity and a renewed sense of inclusiveness.

It begins and ends with security. No one – at least no one sane – wants to participate in any Internet forum where one’s data, identity, and the basic integrity of one’s computer system are at risk. Twitter’s celebrated Denial of Service attack a few days ago simply verified what many had suspected for some time: That Twitter was being sabotaged from within and that if they didn’t clean up their act very soon, those well-publicized 40 percent quick dropout rates could go even higher.

In Twitter’s case, security equals maturity, which in turn equals the willingness of all participants to tolerate members and opinions they do not like, rather than bully them into a clique-induced submission by means fair or – mostly – foul.

I don’t know if I buy Twitter’s public explanation that the DOS attack was an attempt to stifle an outspoken Georgian blogger. My first thought was that it was my own Twitter Stalker’s – Agatha-Anne’s – crude attempt to stifle me! (See We’ve Sent You Black Roses and Are Coming to Slaughter Your Pet Hamster http://wp.me/pycK6-L

I am probably just being paranoid. But no matter which Enemy of the Clique was targeted in the massive attack, Twitter’s willingness to discuss openly what kind of attack it was shows that they – and everybody else – now acknowledges the seriousness of the problem.

An organized Clique of Script Kiddies – mostly under 25, if not 18 – with numerous chips on their shoulders and a vast amount of “talent,” when it comes to the creation and spreading of malware, can no longer be allowed to run roughshod over the vast Twitter community. Unpopular opinions – at least unpopular to this Clique – must be allowed to be voiced without impediment. And Twitter members the Clique doesn’t like must be allowed to be part of Twitter, without being persecuted, harassed, and bullied.

In the 21st Century, Do We Really Want “Tribes?”

I believe there are two things wrong with Twitter, stemming from who its early initiators were and what they wanted from the service.

One major group of early initiators were Kids – teens and some preteens, most of them nice, normal, wholesome Kids out to have fun, rather than make trouble. But whenever you assemble large numbers of Kids on the Internet today, the Script Kiddies are sure to follow.

Script Kiddies, in case you just bought your first computer yesterday, are young people who like to hack, or play games with computer code. Some of them are extremely good at it. And some of them – alas! – have axes to grind, sharpen, and wield to chop off all of our figurative heads.

Twitter itself helped the Script Kiddies greatly by permitting them – it still permits them – to join the service under multiple identities. So an expert 19-year-old hacker in Sweden – let’s call him Thor – could not only sign up for Twitter under his real name, with his real photo attached. He might also sign up for Twitter as Stephanie, a Mom of three from Pasadena who’s a part-time Yoga instructor; Hang, a 47-year-old biology teacher in Taiwan whose hobby is bonsai; Eric, a 31-year-old attorney from Toronto who likes motocross; or Buffy, a 4-year-old Siamese cat, who blissfully Tweets “Mew, mew, Meow, mew, Meow” to her little kitty friends at 15-minute intervals.

The ability to use such multiple identities – 15? 20? 700? – allows individual Script Kiddies, or worse yet, organized groups of them, to bend Twitter quite literally to their advantage, spreading news, product reviews, political opinions, or anything else they wish around the globe by pure volume of posts, or in Twitter parlance, Tweets.

Some, like advertisers or political organizers, might think of this as a very good thing, provided they somehow “owned” the Script Kiddies and could get them to do what they wanted. To marketers of any ilk, this is the bright upside of Twitter, a world where a hot new phone, CD, movie, or political candidate can get oodles of attention very fast. And if those touting said “product” are actually ten teens in ten different countries with 100,000 different identities, so be it.

Some companies advertising things have used Twitter well by cultivating Cliques of both ordinary Kids and computer-savvy Script Kiddies. But political groups, like the Far Left Moveon.org, have used it much better, their triumph being the effective use of Twitter in the nomination and election of Barack Obama.

But these political groups, mostly on the Far Left, seem to have conveniently forgotten that the Script Kiddie portion of their eager Twitter Troops are not only good at organizing things, but also very good at attacking “enemies,” real or imagined, with malware, because they’re deluded into thinking it supports a “greater good” or, more likely, because they think it’s “fun.”

The Script Kiddies were already swell-headed with their success in the Obama campaign and their supposed success in promoting political instability prior to the Iranian elections. So lately, they’ve been emboldened to bully, harass, and send repeated doses of malware to more or less anyone on Twitter they just don’t like: the Georgian blogger, Britney Spears, the political Right, or your Aunt Nancy in Cleveland who fired them from their babysitting job for dropping that newborn . . . Even a politically-Centrist sweet, lovable, inoffensive little Baby Boomer like me can get hacked to death on Twitter by Agatha-Anne, because she didn’t like a Tweet I made my first few days on the service!

And while I hate to criticize a blameless idol, this fella Godin’s best-selling book about Tribes and how they are the in-thing to emulate in social networking hasn’t helped, either. Godin’s thesis is that Collective models, with everyone being essentially equal, are not as viable, in terms of Internet interactivity, as Tribal models, where a small number of trendsetters take over and dominate.

In many ways, this is simply an apologia for the Followed and Followers scheme at Twitter, where if you Follow few but are Followed By many, you have achieved true Celebrity status, whether or not you in any way deserve it. You are a trendsetter and you are Chief of some sort of Tribe, even if you’re Buffy the Siamese cat and your Tribe is other cat avatars who answer your every Mew with Mew-Mew-We-Love-Mew-Buffy.

Frankly, if I have to be part of a Tribe, then I choose the Yanomami in the Amazon, with their cute little poison darts. Or those brave Native Americans in coastal Alaska who harpoon great whales from rawhide dinghies the size of my desk.

But I digress. Whether or not the Tribal model is useful for anything but setting Twitter apart from Linked In and Facebook, many already swell-headed Script Kiddies have taken it as a sort of philosophical excuse for very bad behavior.

We are not Followers, we’re Followed. We are not Soldiers, we’re Generals. We are not Apache warriors, we’re Geronimo. Or if we’re girls, Geronimette. So we can do whatever we want, ethical or not, legal or criminal. If you make a Tweet we consider politically incorrect, we can send you as many viruses as we want to, keylog you until your fingers are arthritic, write hatchet blogs saying you’re a serial mistress of wildebeests, or if Twitter itself offends us, lock it down for days to make ourselves perfectly clear.

Tooth Whiteners, Ladies of the Night, and CNN

The second group to embrace Twitter avidly early on was, of course, Big Media – both Big Media West, or Hollywood, and Big Media East, those (very) few dominant print and television outlets which have sought to crowd everyone else off the Internet since there was an Internet. Lately, these few Big Media dominators have permitted a (very) few Internet blog groups, like the Huffington Post and Mashable, to join them in a dubious quest for Twitter supremacy.

Like any advertisers, Big Media loves it when trendsetting cliques, whether Script Kiddies playing at being Tribal Leaders or anyone else, up to and including Buffy the Cat, touts their products, be they films, music, TV shows, or newspaper articles.

But Big Media has been far less successful in corralling and micro-managing such Tribal groups than have some political organizations. It’s hard to convince ordinary Kids, let alone ornery Script Kiddies, to tout something they don’t like or don’t agree with, even if it’s a movie from a major studio or a feature story from a dominant outlet. So we’ve experienced Celebrity feuds, Celebrity stalkers, Celebrity defection, and ultimately, disgust with All Things Celebrity on the part of many Twitterites.

More serious to me, as a member of Little Media, is Big Media’s remaining silent in the face of malicious attacks on independent media outlets, whether on the Internet or off, on the basis of political or ideological orientation. It’s a case, as I said in a controversial blog title – if not a controversial blog – of We Don’t Like What You Wrote. You Should Be Poisoned, Garrotted, Stabbed With Stiletto Heels, Thrown Off a Tall Building, and Have Vultures Eat Your Liver (See http://wp.me/pycK6-5 )

Although I’m an outspoken Centrist, by no means on the Far Right, my already popular Internet series, Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, has been maliciously attacked by Script Kiddies Bearing Malware, on the grounds that I support Boomers’ right not to be forced into retirement decades too early, so more jobs can open up for young Obama election workers – excuse me, Millennials. (See http://wp.me/pxD3J-3>

I’ve heard numerous horror stories of others who’ve made an “upsetting” – to the Far Left – Tweet or two becoming instant victims of malware, threats, or other forms of harassment. One particular tactic that I find especially disturbing – so much so that I intend to write another blog on this topic alone – is Script Kiddies’ making “spam” accusations about Tweets which in no way fit the definition of “spam.” These accusations have serious Freedom of Speech implications, and instead of ignoring them, Big Media should be jumping all over the accusers.

I’ll give only a brief synopsis here. The term “spam” should refer to excessive and offensive advertising announcements aimed at those who would prefer to “opt out.” That’s why there are pop-up and mail filtering options on the Internet, to prevent all those “Cure for Impotence” and “Here’s a Hot Stock Tip” ads from reaching your E-mail or your sensitive eyes.

By definition, “spam” has a money-making dimension. Someone wants you to part with your dollars. An invitation, a political announcement, or a free newsletter are not “spam,” and those who say they are distort the definition solely to express their personal preferences.

A print article or blog, whether of a political nature or not, is most assuredly not “spam.” Yet this is the primary non-definition of “spam” various Far Left Script Kiddies have been spouting and making accusations about at Twitter and some other sites. It’s gotten so bad that whenever I see a post on Twitter accusing somebody of “spamming,” I know automatically that what they’re objecting to is a link to an article or blog with a message that is considered Right-of-Center, from a source that is part of Little Media and therefore unprotected.

Never once have I seen anything from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or CNN described by the Script Kiddies as “spam.” Never once have I seen a blog from the Huffington Post or Mashable so described.

But even more shocking, never once have I seen the Script Kiddies incensed about real spam! They don’t complain at all about “Profit from Foreclosure” or “Get 10,000 Followers” or “The Best Tooth Whitener Available” ads that pollute Twitter incessantly.

They don’t complain about the monotonously horrid advertisements for the Trump Network. Nor even about the numerous solicitations from Ladies of the Night, who regularly post photos of nude body parts on Twitter, much to the delight, I’m sure, of 11-year-old boys and others of a prurient nature.

But post a link to an article or blog from a source that the Script Kiddies consider Non-Left, and accusations of “spam” will come out of the Cyber-woodwork in three minutes flat.

To Cure Doctrinaire-itis, Let in Fresh Air

So is there any hope for Twitter?

Strangely enough, I think the system was already beginning to self-correct, even before the massive Denial Of Service attack linked to hacker havoc.

Clearly, the humongous dropout rate now confirmed for Twitter, at the same time other social media sites like Linked In are growing steadily, proves that there are almost as many people who don’t like the current situation there as do.

And frankly, I think the two elements of Twitter most adult users – anyone over 30 – dislike most are the flaws in its security and the whole Followers-Following business, which advertisers, Big Media, and that Godin fella may find appealing, but which a large proportion of The Rest of Us consider elitist, insulting, and socioculturally retrograde.

Since these are also the two elements of Twitter most closely associated with bad behavior by Script Kiddies, I think we’re seeing a general dissatisfaction with Script Kiddies being given the run of the place. Why do I say so? Here are some hints that people are creating Their Own Private Twitters beyond the reach of arbitrary Tribal rules and pressures:

Equal numbers of Followers and Following: More and more often, we see users whose Follower-Following ratios are just about dead-even, meaning they are shunning the concept of following Celebrities or Big Media pundits and choosing to connect more naturally and equally with potential friends the way they do on Linked In and Facebook. There are now some applications that allow you to see if any Followers have recently dropped you, in which case you can easily drop them, too.

Reluctance to Retweet – Or Blindly Recommend – Pieces of Information On Somebody’s Say So: As a lifelong member of the Media, I find it absolutely appalling that anyone should agree to Retweet a link to an article, blog, or any other kind of commentary without first reading it themselves and agreeing it is worth recommending. I don’t want people to Retweet my articles and blogs unless they like them and believe they might be informative and enjoyable to others. And I would not consider Retweeting other people’s work I didn’t like and find interesting. Thankfully, more Twitter users are beginning to agree.

Refusal to Follow Someone Without Making the Choice Oneself: It may be profound heresy to say so, but I think Twitter’s popular Follow Fridays are essentially silly. It’s bad enough that Twitter’s one- or two-sentence profile bios tell you next-to-nothing about candidates you might want to connect with. But at least they tell you something. (Buffy the Cat’s says she’s a astrophysicist who plays the clarinet and reads Proust.) More Twitterers are passing on the chance to add folks to their Following roster because that fella with the beard in Pensacola – how the heck did he get into my network? – says they should.

Shunning the Concept That the More Followers You Have, the Better Off You Are: Not only is Twitter ineffective when viewed as a popularity contest, but networks patched together randomly can easily harm their amassers. Take a look at virtually any politician’s Followers list on Twitter, and you’ll find crowds of Ladies of the Night, Tooth Whitener salesmen, Stock Tip purveyors, and Trump Network groupies. Opposing politicians could have a field day publicizing these lists, if it weren’t for the fact that theirs are probably just as bad.

On the other hand, those who regularly prune the unsolicited Followers from their networks and build them slowly but surely by connecting with those who seem sympatico can actually achieve quality over quantity. And more are trying to do it.

Yes, Twitter seems at last self-correcting. And those who are taking the above actions and creating their Own Private Twitters overwhelmingly seem to come from two unlikely groups: Baby Boomers and the GOP.

The Right – and the Center – have begun to assert their interests quite enthusiastically on Twitter over the past few months. For instance, no other bloc of Twitter users has taken so avidly to the use of hashtags, little identifying badges that proclaim a Tweet is coming from someone who’s proud to display an affiliation with this, that, or the other informal group.

Among the most popular are #tcot, used by conservatives; #tlot, for libertarians; #teaparty, a grab bag of those disenchanted with the Obama administration; and #freedom, which sounds a bit like a feminine hygiene product, but which I suspect has something to do with the Right.

No matter what your political beliefs, if you’re a Twitter user, you should welcome this new broadening of the spectrum of active Twitterers. I say this, because those on the Right tend to be both security-conscious and, nowadays, the primary champions of Freedom of (Social Networking) Speech, since they are the ones the Script Kiddies have been harassing. A slew of local Republican politicians and candidates have recently jumped into the Twitter pool. And one feels they’re not gonna put up with a lot of the nonsense that has previously gone on.

And while the hashtag business seems in keeping with the Tribal thesis, even a cursory survey of Right-leaning Twitter users proves they tend to have much more balanced Followers-to-Following lists than the general Twitter public. This is probably partly a function of there being fairly few Celebrity Republicans on the network for potential groupies to pant after. But it also undoubtedly has something to do with the non-Far Left trending older.

Which brings us to the group which will literally save Twitter, the same way it has saved Linked In and other social networking sites. That group, of course, is we Baby Boomers.

For one thing, like the Right-of-Center population, Boomers have borne the brunt of a great deal of Internet-based bullying and harassment lately. (See my article on Anti-Boomer propaganda: http://wp.me/pxD3J-8 )

We are sick and tired of being “dissed,” and we are unlikely to let a social network like Twitter “diss” us, either via malware exploits from the Script Kiddies or by inane urging to participate in Tribal rites like Celebrity-gawking.

On the other hand, we Boomers are exceptionally comfortable with the essential concept of Internet networking – much more so, IMO, than are younger or older generations.

I don’t know why this has not been more widely discussed – but Hey! let’s discuss it now: We Boomers are and have always been both intensely independent and a generation of gung ho joiners.

Does that sound contradictory? Because it’s not. Boomers have been fanatic about self-actualization and improvement from the womb on. We don’t just root for our favorite teams. We’re active in sports on both the team and the individual level. We don’t just watch cooking shows on television. We devise our own recipes and plan elaborate dinners. We don’t just listen to political speeches. We debate political policy or are active in politics ourselves.

But Boomers also tend to be extremely social animals. We gravitated to various clubs from kindergarten on up. We were Cub Scouts and Brownies and belonged to 4-H. We were active in drama or band or the school newspaper. We played football or tennis or golf or field hockey. We joined sororities and fraternities. And we may still be active in P.T.A. or Rotary or Kiwanis or church and synagogue groups.

We’re good at it, too! Some think we’re the last generation to have cultivated the social skills, from saying “Please” and “Thank You” to throwing fun parties, writing persuasive letters, or supervising effective business meetings.

Boomers have taken to Internet social networks as ducks to water. We make friends. We establish business contacts. We collaborate on projects. We moderate and steer on-line discussions, because we tend to do it better than most others.

In short, when we start to populate a social network, we invariably make it better.

Twitter will be no exception.

What Do You Think?

What do you like most – and least – about Twitter?

How could Twitter and other social networks improve to satisfy Boomers?

Does Godin’s “Tribe” construct appeal to you – or should Tribes be relegated to the deepest reaches of New Guinea and Borneo?

Have you been harassed for your political beliefs or anything else you Tweeted on Twitter?

Do we need to bring the guillotine back specifically for Script Kiddies?

I’ve now written that article on False Spam Accusations Used As a Political Weapon: http://wp.me/pycK6-1b

Readers might also like to see the Introduction to the new Media Revolution subseries at EllenInteractive: http://wp.me/pycK6-19

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Once upon a time, when Baby Boomers ventured into the business world, those who could manage operations were Kings. But the ascendancy of financial re-engineering changed all that. Along with product lines and business units, even the most talented individuals turned into Pawns – and thereby became expendable.

Let’s be frank right off the bat. My friend Art has had a career many might envy. Affable, talented, with a razor-sharp intellect, he once managed operations worth over a billion in today’s dollars and earned the respect of employees and customers alike.

But now, at age 59, Art fully admits his career’s at a temporary dead end. And he’s as dismayed and frustrated about it as those at lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

“Yes, we have some savings,” he says. “We don’t have kids in college, and we weren’t heavily involved in the stock market. But like so many other Boomers, I’m finding it hard to get a job now, even worthwhile consulting jobs.”

Art’s wife Susan, 57, has been able to find an accounting position in Nashville, where the couple lives. But she’s no longer a department head, as she once was. And Art has so far shied away from using his savings to launch an ambitious venture of his own. “I don’t know if I have the requisite ‘fire in the belly’ to be a committed lone wolf entrepreneur,” he tells me. “I’d really like to get back to what I do well, which is managing a major operation.”

How did a lauded executive with 30-odd years of top-level managerial experience end up grossly underemployed years before retirement age? Like so many Boomers, Art has essentially been the victim of “financial re-engineering,” that all-purpose grab bag term which has come to mean the perpetual rejiggering of a company’s products, properties, divisions, and all-too-often people, in order to squeeze the greatest possible financial returns out of a firm’s designated assets.

Art’s field is healthcare. But virtually every sector of the US economy has been affected by the spectre of financial re-engineering the past few decades. Old concepts of corporate integrity, mission, and loyalty to employees have flown out the window, say critics, to be replaced by an environment where short-term advantage has supplanted long-term goals and the Main Chance is the only chance that counts.

Here Today, Who Knows Where Tomorrow

“It was different when I started out,” says Art, with more than a tinge of nostalgia. Born and raised in a small town in the South, he comes from a mini-dynasty of rural physicians. His dad, granddad, and two great uncles were all country doctors, and his mother trained as a nurse.

But Art got a business degree from West Virginia University and started out in the audit division of a Big Eight accounting firm in Norfolk. Ironically, he ended up in healthcare, like his family, by doing such a good job for clients in that sector, a regional senior living chain recruited him.

So began 32 years working for six different companies in the healthcare sector, some of which seemed to be periodically chopped up, patched together, switched around, and swapped shamelessly like trading cards.

The first company Art worked for was purchased by a much larger competitor five years into his tenure. That worked out well for Art, who eventually became a divisional president, with responsibility for over 250 separate healthcare facilities. But when this company, too, was “re-engineered” by asset shufflers, his position disappeared, and he went to work for a smaller outfit, itself in the midst of a realignment of product and service lines, as well as one of the first “securitizations” of healthcare real estate assets.

Through these moves and re-positionings, Art observed major changes in basic corporate attitudes. “When I started working,” he observes, “competent, ambitious managers strove to prove their worth in line positions, overseeing operations, products, and people. Staff people were in the background, while those in line operations held sway.”

But by the 1980’s, things began to change rapidly. Financial re-engineering became all the rage, and operating executives took a back seat to a new crop of would-be “dealmakers,” whose main objective seemed to be shifting assets – and people – around for the quickest possible return.

Art was only in his 30’s then, but he remembers old timers’ resentment of a seemingly endless stream of newly-minted finance MBA’s, who swooped into corporate offices with confidence verging on conceit, convinced that they had reinvented the wheel and that those who failed to concentrate on immediate “optimization” of results were hopelessly behind the times.

“I guess these fellas are all over 40 now,” laughs Art. “But back then, they seemed very young and very zealous. Meanwhile, operations began to suffer, because the Best and the Brightest no longer wanted to spend their careers actually managing things, instead of shuffling assets and doing deals.”

At the turn of the Millennium, Art was recruited as a senior executive of a start-up company which was expected to evolve into a major player in assisted-living, home healthcare, and private caregiver services. Here, he experienced the fickleness of financiers and Wall Street’s frenzied chase for the financial fad of the moment.

“Our president and founder, a respected physician, had lined up what seemed to be very solid financing from a flamboyant venture capitalist,” Art relates. “We were promised substantial financial backing for several years, enough to provide a platform for sustained growth.”

But the superstar financier pulled out at the last moment, leaving the new company essentially high and dry. “It was those heady years of the Dot.Com Boom,” Art says, “and the financier decided healthcare wasn’t Boom-y enough. He abandoned us for some West Coast computer start-ups, telling us he could make incredible returns there – I think the figure was 30 percent a year. And No, I’m not sure what happened to him.”

What happened to Art was major disillusionment. The start-up couldn’t make it, and a subsequent short stint at another healthcare company also disappointed, as it, too, went through “re-engineering” and changed its focus. About two years ago, Art went out on his own, but he hasn’t enjoyed it much and would like to be part of a corporate team again, if the possibility presents itself.

“I’ll bounce back, and so will the Boomer generation,” he says confidently. “It’s good so many of us are angry. We’ll move through the anger and shake things up, as we always have.”

One thing that sorely needs shaking up, Art believes, is companies’ recent reliance on short-term financial gains at the expense of long-term prosperity, for themselves and their employees. “A company is only as good as its managers and its workers,” he says. “The entire corporate world has to get back to basics. And the root of those basics is operations.”

What Do You Think?

Have you or anyone you know been “re-engineered” right out of a job or a company?

How have corporations in the US and Canada gone astray?

Have Baby Boomers been particularly hurt by financial re-engineering?

Have those in line operations suffered at the expense of financial wiz kids?

Do you think many companies are finally seeing the light?

Will Boomers return to corporate jobs as the economy picks up, or will they prefer to take the entrepreneurial route back to financial prosperity?

For the next story in the series, “Will Boomers Save Twitter?” click on: http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

For the Introduction to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For a look at how “Sophisticated Communes” may take Baby Boomers full circle as we age, see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-x