Sexy Havens for Sophisticated Silver Surfers
June 18, 2007 1:38 AM   Subscribe

A very quick and light-hearted 80-year-old I'm been sweet on since the day I was born is about to cast caution to the winds and enter the Internet. What chatty-but-literate merry widow and laughing cavalier websites should be fighting for her attention?

In other words, where are the more sophisticated silver surfers gathering nowadays and what dastardly ruses should innocent young initiates like my mother watch out for? Are there any Metafilters for flirty yet bookish oldies that might appeal to her? I should add that my mother is English and lives in Portugal but, luckily for you, has a soft spot for educated Americans. Also, she's on a Mac. Many thanks for any suggestions. No CVs accepted, sorry.
posted by MiguelCardoso to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Two questions:
1) What is she into in the, um, non-internet world?
2) How familiar is she with computers overall?

As an "educated American" and a politics/foreign affairs junkie, I've always liked reading Slate and Salon for quasi-mainstream-y stuff, along with the New Yorker and the New York Times' Sunday Magazine. The Atlantic and Harpers fill in the edges. I wash it all down with steaming cups of NPR podcasts, most of which are available through iTunes - This American Life, Justice Talking, Speaking of Faith. None of those are particularly community-oriented, but they've given me a pretty deep trawl of what's happening without being what I'll call "news-ticker-kidnapping-explosion-terror-alert-on-fuchsia."

These sources have often pointed me in really great directions, sometimes sliding way off into unknown territories of learning, discovery, and the like...which is precisely why I love the internet, because where you end up is often not even close to what you thought you wanted but ends up fitting the bill perfectly. Showing Mom a site like (Ask) Metafilter might help her see how one post about something can result in other people submitting lots of links to other related but different subjects, providing a more complete picture.

The most surprising thing about the internet that I found after I started using it much more heavily when I got to college was that the web opened me up to offline resources accessible only through online means which I previously had never seen or heard of, from the scary $10 buses that run from Boston to New York to this dude's amazing train-travel website.

That's something to think about, then - what are the websites that can give her something she can't get offline unless she checks out the online bits first?
posted by mdonley at 2:18 AM on June 18, 2007

They might really enjoy netvibes, especially if they have a wide variety of interests.
posted by phaedon at 2:21 AM on June 18, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, mdonley and phaedon - thanks.

In answer to your two pertinent questions:

1) Books (biography, British and American social history up to 1945, novels); men of a certain age; writing; silliness and recklessness in general; life in the Thirties and Forties (decade not age); childhood memoirs and family relationships; the English language; the good life in general; the romantic attraction of English-speaking men and women for exotic foreigners and vice-versa; music of popular American theatre composers such as Porter, Arlen, Berlin, Gershwin and Sondheim; Second World War memoirs; The Spectator; New York Review of Books; intimate conversation with complete strangers; interesting life experiences of all kinds.

2) She isn't at all familiar with computers, apart from being very curious about the Internet (but I'll soon get her up and running).

All the best and thanks again!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:07 AM on June 18, 2007

Buy her a subscription to the NYRB. The archives are comprehensive and one can easily lose hours browsing through them.

Also, it sounds like Bookslut would be right up her alley.
posted by felix betachat at 3:30 AM on June 18, 2007 to speak...
posted by felix betachat at 3:32 AM on June 18, 2007

For some reason, I'm thinking that genealogy sites like Geni might be an interesting thing for her to get into; perhaps that's just because I think a woman of her age, with multiple-nation connections, would have a great family-tree story to tell. Not very community, of course. Also, just to show she's still just a youngster, she should probably drop by Life of Riley.
posted by mmahaffie at 3:35 AM on June 18, 2007

If in New Zealand I would suggest Grown ups.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:36 AM on June 18, 2007

I suggest urban dictionary, she'll laugh her ass off
posted by matteo at 3:54 AM on June 18, 2007

She sounds like she'd enjoy Arts & Letters Daily; my octogenarian ancestor does.
posted by fish tick at 4:54 AM on June 18, 2007

silliness and recklessness in general: *Ah-hem*
posted by romakimmy at 5:34 AM on June 18, 2007

Some good suggestions here.
posted by mediareport at 5:51 AM on June 18, 2007

I was just about to mention my similar question, but mediareport beat me to it. My grandfather did greatly enjoy the Library of Congress site, the IMDb, and the Wikipedia (but he was quite skeptical of it, as this was just after the whole "Wikipedia is unreliable" story broke in the mainstream media). His favorite thing, by far, was Google Earth. Just about blew his mind to check out his own neighborhood, his family members homes, and places he had been on vacation. Not exactly the Internet, but it was a big hit.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:17 AM on June 18, 2007

My clever internet-savvy-80s mom loves Yahoo Picks of the Week and also notcot for things that make you go WOW.

I also find it handy to sign her up for newsletters of sites she likes -- that way clickable links come right to her Inbox, which is super-handy for beginners.
posted by sparky at 6:54 AM on June 18, 2007
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:44 AM on June 18, 2007

Best answer: If she's not the sort of person who's too easily overwhelmed, I think maybe you should give her a "whirlwind tour" of the Internet (a small corner of it anyway) and let her decide what she wants to do.

Maybe take some of the sites that have been suggested, and load them all up as bookmarks on the computer she'll be using. Then, sit down with her (maybe get her a separate monitor or something? I always found trying to get two people in front of a single monitor comfortably was a problem...but then again, my family is full of big people who can't sit still) and go through the sites. You can tell her she doesn't have to try and remember anything, because you've already bookmarked them for her, and she can go back to any of them at her leisure. But you can show her around a little.

In addition to ones previously noted, I'd definitely make a point of showing her Wikipedia, the NY Times (or the online version of her favorite dead-tree hometown paper), Google News, Flickr, an online Dictionary and Thesaurus (one of the unabridged ones), Google Maps, Project Gutenberg, and maybe even MetaFilter.

It's hard to say what on the Internet is going to catch someone's fancy. My father, who is a lawyer and writer, and I thought would be interested in Wikipedia or PG, instead really has taken to studying old geographic survey maps and comparing them to what's around today on Google Earth. I'd never have thought to show that to him...

Anyway, I think the best thing you can do is try to give her as much of a sense as possible of the vastness of stuff that's now available to her, and give her some of the tools she'll need to comb through it and find what she's interested in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:47 AM on June 18, 2007

Best answer: She will need to be able to distinguish good sites from junk and scam sites, if she's going to be doing any google searching on her own. She will need some help distinguishing ads on a page from real content and links. You might set her up with Firefox and Adblock, and you could go to all the sites she is likely to visit and pre-emptively enter their info into Adblock for her, so she won't be deluged with ads.

She will need to be aware of common scams, and how to check something out to see if it is a scam or hoax. My go-to resource for these purposes is Snopes (look at the categories "internet" and "inboxer rebellion"). Explain about the Nigerian advance scam, the "I'm sending a check for more than the value of the item, please cash it and return the balance to me" scam, etc. Emphasize that people online often pretend to be other than they really are -- different sex, different nationality, pretending to be sick and in need when they really aren't. Conversation online is all well and good, but she should know that there are dishonest types who may try to prey on her kindness and bilk her -- ie, she should not reveal personal info or send anyone money! (or at least, she should talk to you first)

There may be live webcams in her favorite places.

Fun blogs about language and linguistics are Language Log and of course Language Hat. The Word Detective runs very nice monthly columns on word origins and related matters. There is a group blog from a mixed group of academics called Crooked Timber that might be of interest - they have posts on economics, philosophy, politics, etc. A Daily Dose of Architecture is also nice. Any of these would be good illustrations of how a blog works, with links to relevant material and some discussion.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

Assuming this entry to the internet also includes an email account, please please please make it clear to her that emails asking to be forwarded to everyone she knows shouldn't. My ancestor drives me crazy with that stuff!
posted by fish tick at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2007

I vote for Arts & Letters Daily; it's the closest thing to traditional media I know of on the internet (thus a good transition to the wacky world of blogs), and there's always something interesting there.

Migs, you promised updates to this question—any developments yet?

Thanks for the plug, LobsterMitten!
posted by languagehat at 11:34 AM on June 18, 2007

Best answer: Hi Miguel!

where are the more sophisticated silver surfers gathering nowadays

Maybe she doesn't want to be segregated on a site with a lot of old folks and their lumbago. Part of the beauty of the web is being able to mix it up with people who aren't already in your circle. I don't see why you wouldn't show her Mefi and AskMefi - if you warn her that it can be a little crass & crazy at times. There's something for everyone on the front page.

Introduce her to postroad, lol.

Find some esoteric interest that she has always had and show her sites or communities about the topic. When I first got online, I was so bowled over that I could find blues sites & info - I had very few blues aficionados among my friends at the time (although I have surreptitiously converted a few). It made an instant web junkie out of me. The ability to find communities and sites on narrow interest topics is awesome.

Spend a little time showing her how to use Google and teaching her not to click on anything that blinks, and set her lose.

But if she longs for web contemporaries, find some bloggers on the ageless project - there's a whole page of octogenarians. I would recommend As Time Goes By, a blog that focuses on aging. Also, be sure to show her My Generation.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:07 PM on June 18, 2007

Ursi's blog usually has the good stuff.

iMomus is running repeats while on vacation, but is one of the most interesting sites on the web.

Holly Gleason's site is a bit hard to navigate, but is well done, from a feminine point of view. Her Yummy List is worth checking out.

these photo sites are things I would show my Mom.
posted by vronsky at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2007

Second on Snopes. My 84-year-old grandmother is an internet junkie, but her BS filters just aren't calibrated to the Internet. After 5-10 rounds with me sending her Snopes links, she learned to look there first.

Her interests are genealogy, reconnecting with old classmates, and reading family members' blogs. While she's not the model of the hyper-literate web surfer, you can take her as a sign that octogenarians get by on the web just fine.
posted by dw at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2007

Best answer: Hi, Miguel.

Forgive me if this sounds indiscreet, but the London Review of Books personal section is renowned for quirky and literate postings. In fact, they are the subject of a well-received book.
posted by NortonDC at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2007

Useful in conjunction with Google Maps and Google Earth: Google sightseeing, which has links to the Google images of a lot of famous or interesting sites by category (world monuments, airplanes in flight, etc).

My dad was pleased when I showed him YouTube and found videos of old Art Tatum performances. She probably has favorite performers who have clips on there too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2007

How about APOD?
posted by Upton O'Good at 4:22 PM on June 18, 2007

Sophisticated? Well, no, but I bet is beloved by Moms damn near everywhere.

My literate, ornery, silvering mom certainly sat chuckling for an uncommonly long interval after I showed it to her (it warmed my heart to sit in the next room listening to her mumble things like "I has a flavor" in between chortles).
posted by scarabic at 8:24 PM on June 18, 2007

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