You’re never too old to Facebook
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.