“Is your grandmother on Facebook?” asks Kelly Steffen in her post titled Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation. A year ago that might seem like an odd question because in 2009, social networking use by folks 65 and older stood at 13 percent. But this year social networking use among Internet users 65 and older grew by a staggering 100 percent, a recent Pew Research Center survey reports. That’s more than 1 out of 4 people in that age group are using the Internet are using Facebook and other social networking sites to connect with long lost friends and distant grandchildren.
This new odd couple is creating a digital conundrum for Kelly and her Gen Y cohorts. She writes, “As happy as I am to connect with her more easily, it’s still a bit strange to have her commenting on my pictures and updates. Another side of me says “way to go grandma!” As a millennial, I often take new technology for granted. Because I’ve been exposed to the growing advances in technology, it comes more easily to me than my grandmother who is completely out of place in the digital world.”
Kelly then did a great job at summarizing how different generations use social media. What follows are her findings:
Millennials (age 18-29)
According to Pew, Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history, largely due to the exposure of modern technology at an early age. As a Millennial, I’ve had more opportunities to have hands on experience with technology than my parents and grandparents. We embrace multiple modes of self-expression by exploring multiple social networking sites and create a large amount of online content.
Social media is just one of their uses of the Internet, and it’s not even the most important. They access the Internet continuously first and foremost for information and for entertainment and secondarily for connection.
Millennials far outpace older Americans in the use of social networking sites, with 75 percent having created a social networking profile.
Generation X (age 30-45)
Generation X uses technology as much as Millennials but primarily when it when it supports a particular lifestyle need. Much of the online content that this generation participates in is geared to online shopping and banking with less socializing than Millennials.
Boomers (age 46-64)
Baby Boomers use the internet and various social networks for travel and recreation information. Although email continues to be the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, many Boomers now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications. These include sharing links, photos, videos, news and status updates with a growing network of contacts.
Veterans (age 65+)
Seniors are less likely to use internet resources for simple lack of broadband access. Pew states that only 6 percent have created a social networking profile. The primary form of communication is email with 89 percent of those ages 65 and older send or read emails and more than twice of any other cohort on a typical day. Maybe this explains why I get at least three “chain emails” a week from my grandmother!
For another perspective on how different personalities approach social media, read 4 Social Networking Personalities. Which One’s Yours?