In 2008, social media was primarily the domain of the young. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 68 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds used social media back then, but only a miniscule 27 percent of their parents (50- to 64-year-olds) and a teeny-tiny 9 percent of their grandparents (over 65) had jumped on the social media bandwagon.
Fast forward only a decade, and the total number of people using some form of social media has skyrocketed from 21 to 69 percent, but there’s also a greater equilibrium across the generations. Compared to the significant 81 percent of the younger generation on Facebook, 50- to 64-year-old users aren’t too far behind at 65 percent. Even almost half (41 percent) of those 65 and over are posting selfies, sharing videos and going crazy with the emojis. (My 82-year-old aunt is a more skilled Facebook user than me!)
So why is social media, particularly Facebook, so appealing, to seniors?
The name says it all.
As we get older, it’s easy to feel alone. Many of our friends have passed away, our families live out of town or are just too busy to spend much time with us, and we’re not driving as much (or at all) anymore. Social media gives us an easy way to interact with almost anyone we choose, making new friends, reconnecting with old ones and staying in touch with loved ones. (How else would we see our grandson on the soccer field or our daughter’s new haircut?!)
Edify and enlighten.
By finding and liking pages that curate and regularly share content on a particular topic of interest, we’re served up a steady stream of information that would take far more time for us to find on our own. For example, my father watches fishing videos in the hopes of picking up a few tricks from an expert angler. Many seniors also get their news through various social media channels.
More than just fun.
Those games and quizzes are not only a fun way to pass the time, but in most cases, they can also engage our brains and challenge us to think in different ways. Also, the many-sided discussions that mushroom on people’s Facebook pages give us the opportunity to grapple with our own opinions and learn to articulate them. We just have to try to avoid going down too many rabbit holes in the process!
A virtual community.
Work, clubs, churches, community involvement—they all can make us feel connected and a part of something bigger. However, when we’re not going to a job anymore, as active in our church or selling hotdogs at our kids’ baseball games, we begin to feel a bit isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world. Facebook gives us a similar sense of community, albeit virtual. While we’re sharing our own photos or commenting on someone else’s, we gain a feeling of connection that’s in short supply these days.
Share if you use Facebook and why!