You’re never too old to Facebook

Monday, 28th May 2007 at 9:01 UTC 9 comments

Following on from all the other Facebook related posts I seem to make; here are some thoughts on the recent accusation that Facebook is for younger people only. My friends list is a testament to the lack of truth in this: I’ve about a dozen friends over 30, most of whom are over 35. Yes, its can be a bit weird, but some of his reasons are very much non-reasons. Oh, and before anyone asks, yes, George Galloway is now my friend. Why? I’m still not entirely sure. But oh well.

I seem to remember heralding the changes in the Messaging system on Facebook as the best technological advance since instant messaging. While that might have been overdoing it a bit, its definitely true that Social Networking is taking big steps forwards in facilitating discussion and friendship. And it will be here to stay, even if certain sites manage to sink without trace (fingers crossed, that’ll be MySpace, and soon!).

One of the first mistakes people make with it, however, is exactly that: they assume that Facebook will do the work for them, mistaking spades for petrol engines if that makes sense. This simply isn’t the case, and while it may seem annoying to get caught up in advertising commercial websites, this is definitely a must for facebook: its worth joining because other people have joined who you know. Therefore, its worth inviting more people, to get better use from it. Yes, its not something many people are totally OK with doing, and less so the older generations, but the benefits are high in long run.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that social networking sites spread through, erm, social networking, which sounds obvious, but lots of people have yet to realise. I joined Facebook because I realised that when I did, I’d already have about 50 friends on it. Actually, I have 266 at the last count. I didn’t join until lots of people around me already had.

When Facebook arrived in Britain, there was a sort of problem. The first people to sign up were American students on placement (some of whom were signed up when they arrived). They invited their friends, and students in America invited their British friends to join as well, and so those students with the best links to American student circles joined up. Then their friends joined, and so on. And then we invited our French and German friends and Facebook pushed ever Eastwards.

For Facebook to expand across generations, we have to engage in the same process, but with ages. 20 year olds need to invite their 25 year old friends, and then their 30 year old friends and so forth. In turn the 25 year olds, who have more 30 year old friends than the 20 year olds, will invite their friends. In my experience, the average age of my 10 oldest friends on Facebook probably goes up a year every month, simply because its starting to make more sense for older people to join.

My next few arguments swing round the other way; not so much why people over 30 should be patient with Facebook, but why its vital that they do join and don’t shrug it off as a youth fashion thing.

Modern society is the most divided in history, and no less so than in terms of generational divides. We have around 10 clearly separate age groupings in Britain, with real communication difficulties between them. Old methods of communication between generations are failing, so we need new ones. Yes, this new method might give younger people the advantage, but its worth a try.

Our modern society is a network society (damn, my dissertation comes back to haunt me) and so those who suceed in it are more often the best networkers. The definition of succeed need not be debated, because most ways of succeeding are best attained with a large dose of networking, not just getting rich. Therefore, having tools which help you along the way is a big bonus. We will end up with horribly isolated older generations if something isn’t done, and showing your seniors how to use Facebook is probably one step in the right direction.

The other thing that occurs to me comes from the rather telling statement in the report: ” “She explains that Facebook has helped her keep in touch with old university friends, organise social events – and rediscover someone she last saw when she was 12. “You can use it to organise nights out clubbing,” she suggests, brightly. Hmmm – I’m not sure she understands the nature of my middle-aged social life.”

Yes, its true that middle-aged people probably dont’ want to go to clubs, and there is a huge amount left to be desired by this, and most generations, from social venues in modern cities. But whether its nightclubs in particular is a peripheral issue: some of the older people I know have very little social life and suffer as a result, through loneliness, isolation and so forth.  Even if its arranging to meet people for lunch in a slightly outdated cafe in town, I’m pretty desperate for my parents to start connecting with more people around them.

So older people shouldn’t dismiss Facebook off-hand.  Sure, its probably only worth a couple of minutes effort per week, but over time it will pay dividends.

Entry filed under: Community, Culture, Social Networking, Technology.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  Monday, 28th May 2007 at 10:49 UTC

    I think you must be getting pay via facebook. I also believe their backers who pay you must be the same ones who back the ReSpittle party and their pink leotarded frontman. In fact, I’m sure the knights templar are involved in there somewhere.

  • 2. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 28th May 2007 at 10:59 UTC

    Quite the opposite: if I had to pay Facebook for all its worth to me, I’d have to give them quite a bit of money. Thankfully I don’t, so I’m happy to advocate for them for free, seeing as the service is so bloody useful.

  • 3. Greg  |  Monday, 28th May 2007 at 14:45 UTC

    I know. Sitting in this computer room, if I had to check ship of fools ONCE MORE to distract myself from matlab, I’d have to scream.

  • 4. Helen B  |  Wednesday, 30th May 2007 at 15:33 UTC

    (Please tell me that Galloway can only see your limited profile…)

  • 5. Sophia  |  Friday, 1st June 2007 at 14:28 UTC

    I can’t believe you accepted Galloway, I definitely didn’t. shame on you! ;-p

  • 6. Steve  |  Tuesday, 5th June 2007 at 13:37 UTC

    Until quite recently Facebook only allowed people at universities and similar academic institutions to join, so it’s not surprising that people have the image of Facebook only being for the younger greneration. People who were not students were not allowed to join. I know, I tried.

    And I only found out later, but accident, that it was now open to wrinklies as well.

  • 7. Graham Martin  |  Sunday, 10th June 2007 at 23:47 UTC

    RE Galloway: Erm, yes, and I’ve already invited him to events and stuff.

    Steve, I know you’re making a valid point, and I think Facebook should do more to communicate the change in policy. I think what I was trying to say is that the average age will get noticably older (i.e. faster than simply the passing time causes) as Facebook goes on. Its a platform upon which different people do different things; I think older generations will figure great uses for it soon enough.

  • 8. steve the old man!  |  Wednesday, 4th July 2007 at 10:13 UTC

    do i get this right you young wipper snapper, you regard your friends who are over 30 as “old” and those of us over 35 as bloody ancient! screw you!

    one thing i am finding with face book is that i’ve been on for about a month but tellingly half of my friends seem to have joined after i did.
    face book is growing at an impressive speed from what i can see – presumably you kids all joined ages ago (though your so bloody young ages probably means a couple of sodding months) but everyone is catching up.

  • 9. Graham Martin  |  Thursday, 5th July 2007 at 14:41 UTC

    Erm, in the context of Facebook, 30 is still old, though since I wrote this article, I think the age of Facebook users has probably gone up a few years. 30 is definitely ‘older than me’, but not considerably so. There’s people in my friends now who are in their 50’s I think, which again, is proving that you really aren’t too old to Facebook.

    In my 2nd last paragraph, my use of middle-aged was meant as 40-65, btw. I certainly know plenty of 30-somethings with very healthy social lives!

    I actually didn’t join Facebook for the first few months that I was aware of it, and when I did, I hardly touched it for a few weeks. I think I’ve been using it for over 6 months though.


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