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Using humour to bridge the digital divide between generations – An interview with the creator of “Messages from mothers on WhatsApp”

Today we met Stefano, who has taken a humorous look at how modern parents use technology by creating a Facebook page called “Mamme che scrivono messaggi su WhatsApp” (Messages from mothers on WhatsApp).

Stefano, thank you for sharing your story with us. Is it true that it all started with a conversation with your mother on WhatsApp?

That’s right. It was a message from my mother that gave me the idea. After receiving one of her countless messages full of bewildering and often hilarious mistakes and sentences, I said to myself: “Surely my mother can’t be the only one who struggles to get to grips with smartphones and WhatsApp?” I posted the first screenshots on my profile and then I decided to create a Facebook page to publish the others.

You must receive lots of screenshots from your fans. How do you decide which ones to pick and share?

First of all, I reject any screenshots with swearing in them. I then select the ones that get the most “Likes” on a separate Facebook page that I use to let everyone share their screenshots. Of course I also pick out a lot myself, mostly bearing in mind the sort of things that are most popular with users.

You get lots of funny messages, but also some touching stories from people who love your page because it brings back memories of parents that are no longer with them. Do you feel that you have a lot of responsibility towards them?

On a number of occasions I have received messages from people who want to thank me because the screenshots remind them of parents that they have lost and even manage to bring a smile to their faces. Messages like that are really moving, but they also make you realize how important it can be to simply make someone smile. It is really rewarding to be able to brighten up the days of people who have lost parents by sharing conversations that are not only full of amusing blunders by mothers but also reveal all of their love and affection.

The parents in the conversations that you post are actually really on the ball. They are trying to keep up with the latest developments and they have amazing relationships with their children. Do you think that it presents a cross-section of society or is the generation gap between parents and children getting smaller and smaller?

Parents definitely want to keep up with their children and they are not at all intimidated by the technical challenges presented by social networks and WhatsApp, which they want to use at all costs. Autocorrect can make us all look foolish at times, but the reason why they use smartphones is because they want to stay in touch with their children. They often create groups and insist on their dear husbands joining. And I have to say that family groups always produce the best screenshots!

Less than a year after you created the page, you have already won numerous awards and published a book. What are your plans for the future?

The awards don’t belong to me but to all of the mothers, sons and daughters who have helped to create this wonderful online community. The idea behind the book was to produce something that could get parents and children to sit down together on the sofa. It is something that they can all enjoy, in a world where it is harder and harder for families to find things that they all have in common. Judging by the messages that I have received, I think I might have managed it. In the future, I will definitely carry on running the page in the same way and I will try to make sure that I never stray from the original idea. In terms of content, over time I will try to come up with something new, but it will still be about mothers and WhatsApp and I will continue to take note of suggestions from the fans, who are the real stars of the page.

If you want to have a good laugh, check out the Mamme che scrivono messaggi su WhatsApp Facebook page.