Having recently viewed the popular highly regarded film, The Social Network, it got me thinking about my use of computer technology and how much I personally depend on social networking to stay in touch with friends and family. I remember when the Internet was still referred to as the Information Superhighway and dial-up modems were the only way to travel there. Technology has zipped along since then, but the manner in which the majority of Baby Boomers use the Internet remains pretty much the same. Boomers go online to use e-mail, shop, and do research. An AARP survey shows that 40% of those 50 years old or older consider themselves either extremely or very comfortable using the Internet.
Despite the growing number of Boomers online, only 27% use social networking sites. Social networking is the next iteration of the Internet. Instead of static webpages, websites are interactive so users can comment in real-time with each other, putting the “social” in social networking.
It’s true that the number of Baby Boomers using social networks is increasing. CBS News recently ran a story on the growing number of Baby Boomers now using social media. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, social networking on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn is up 88% among those aged 50-64. Use of Twitter alone is up 120% in the same age group.
If you haven’t joined the social networking bandwagon yet, here’s a quick low-down on the most well-known social media sites and what their focus is:
Myspace (130 million users): The first social networking site to take off in a big way. Since losing the social networking crown to Facebook, they have revamped the site to focus on music and target younger users.
Facebook (500 million users): The current top of the heap in social networking. Most people use it to keep in touch with friends and family.
LinkedIn (80 million users): Popular for professionals, it’s more about resumes and networking than reuniting with your prom date from high school.
Twitter (175 million users): Say what you want in 140 characters or less. Users follow people (from celebrities to politicians to your grandkids) with short updates known as “tweets.”
Looking to connect more with other Boomers? There are a couple of social networking sites geared directly to you. Eons (listed in our Blogroll and LINKS section to the right) is a social networking site that launched in 2005 by the man who created the job hunting website Monster.com. You can join different communities based on personal interests such as gardening or travel, play games, and share photos. AARP also features social networking on its website for the 50+ crowd with its AARP Online Community.
If you want to read further about how to get the most out of social networking, the Torrance Public Library has books to get you started :
- This Is Social Media : How to Tweet, Post, Link and Blog Your Way to Business Success by Guy Clapperton
- Facebook & Twitter for Seniors for Dummies by Marsha Collier
- Facebook in 10 Minutes by Sherry Kinkoph Gunter
- A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization: Strategies, Tactics, and Tools for Succeeding in the Social Web by Deltina Hay
- Twitter: Tips, Tricks, and Tweets by Paul McFedries
- Social Networking for the Older and Wiser: Connect With Family and Friends, Old and New by Sean McManus
- The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools,and Strategies for Business Success by Lon Safko
- Seven Days to Online Networking: Make Connections to Advance Your Career and Business Quickly by Ellen Sautter
Do you use social networking sites? Have strong feelings about their positive and negative aspects? Still not ready to jump in yet? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!