My grandmother, who is 80 this year, has an e-mail account. She’s had it for a few years, actually, which has proven useful when I’ve needed to send overdue thank-you notes. Of course, she also wears jeans and does yoga, and in the quiet British suburb in which she lives, this combination of things — the e-mail, the denim, the downward dog — means she might as well be one of the founding members of the Arcade Fire or something. I mean, she’s that freaking hip.

When you’re almost 80 and people use the word “hip,” it’s normally followed by “replacement surgery.” This, therefore, is an accomplishment indeed.

But my grandma needs to watch out. Her generation is catching up! Dubbed (nauseatingly) “the silver surfers,” more than half of over-55s say the internet “gives them a new lease on life,” according to the BBC. Seven percent look for love online, and 22 percent play games. No numbers yet on elderly porn consumers but they’ve gotta be out there.

You know what I think most of them are doing, though? I think most of them are sending out those damn mass forwards, the ones that urge you to make a wish and then spin around twice while reciting the Lord’s Prayer (backwards, in Dutch) if you don’t want to be cursed with bad luck for the rest of your life. They’re spending their days — in between the crocheting and the daytime TV-watching — tapping away at their computers, making sure that their ungrateful grandchildren are greeted every day at work when they open their e-mail inboxes with subject lines like FW: WHY KITTENS ARE CUTE and FW: FW: FW: YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS TO SAVE YOUR LIFE! and FW: CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS THING THAT YOU WILL ONLY FIND FUNNY IF YOU WERE BORN BEFORE THE SECOND WORLD WAR, AND PERHAPS NOT EVEN THEN.

Right? I mean, do you get those forwards from anyone in your own generation anymore? (Aside from your loser cousin Marge, I mean, the one who still sends fan mail to the cast of Webster and dresses exclusively in mustard-colored fabrics and really needs to be acquainted with a bottle of Nair?) No! Anyone under the age of 40 has wised up to the idea that no one really cares about the latest missing child hoax, and that forwarding it around the world isn’t going to make the (entirely fabricated) child come home any quicker. We all know that mass forwards just aren’t kosher — unless, of course, they’re really, really funny, and even then, you’d better not make us scroll down through half a million names just to get to the joke — and so we’ve learned not to inflict them on everyone else.

But why don’t old(er) people get this? Why do our parents and grandparents continue to hit the forward button the minute one of these lands in their laps? Are they nostalgic for the days of the good old chain letter? Paranoid about being the one who doesn’t pass the message on? (“Oh, that Ethel! The shame!” they’ll whisper at Bingo.) Or are they still just so new to the internet that sending e-mail — any e-mail — is still a total trip?

For the record, my hip Grandma is so evolved that she doesn’t indulge in this kind of thing, but I certainly know a whole lot of other silver surfers who do. So tell me, silver surfers, what’s the appeal? Answers on a postcard, please. Not in a mass e-mail forward.

Holly Burns deletes your forwards without reading them. Find her on the web at

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