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« An Interview with DigiDave - Dave Cohn about first steps into social media | Main | Are you one of the 16%? The HyperConnected »

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Beth Dunn

You know, I'm guessing that the generation of 20-30 year-olds that use phrases like "brb y'all!" (as interns in my office do) are not going to suddenly back away from social media when they hit a certain age. Just as the boomers have redefined what it means to be middle-aged (indeed, as they have redefined what it means to be any age), the generation that has grown up with their lives intertwined with social media will redefine age-based demographic trends around technology usage.

The difference is that people who use social media realize that there is no "point" to any of it, per se. It's all just another means to an end. Tools. I think boomers who have trouble seeing the point to Facebook are right - it *is* meaningless, if you go into it without any objectives or goals.

Some people see that they have X to get done, and see that Y tool can help them get X done. If you don't know anything about Y tool, it won't ever occur to you that it can help you get X done. And you'll keep on doing X with the tools you understand.

Until you finally have an AHA moment. And then you realize Y.

jeremy107

Interesting post. It made realize that even as someone working to become 'hyper-connected' for a good cause, I'm not that inspired to encourage others to dive in and do the same - especially people of my parent's generation. (Unless that is, as Beth Dunn points out, there's a real reason to do so - an X to get done).

Social Networking is a tool, and all tools in history have seemed to end up causing about as many problems as they solve. Its clearly worth while to try to explore the potential of the tool in the 'problem solving' end. but the learning curve surely gets higher with age, and the extra time in front of the screen comes at a cost.

Plus - social networking is so much about density of friends or people of similar interests already on the network. So if your already in the demographic with such a small percentage using social media, that diminishes the potential benefits even more.

Alyssa G

I think that baby boomers will use social networks that better suit their needs. My parents (this makes me sound like a little kid) both use LinkedIn a lot, and a lot of my old professors are on Twitter. I agree with Jeremy - the social media only works when others in your demographic are using it as well.

To me, this doesn't necessarily mean that baby-boomers + social media should be ignored - if your target demographic is college professors or marketers, for example, they're going to be more apt to be on social networks. Makes me think - who exactly are we talking to and where are they talking to each other?

Rita

My guess is that boomers aren't using social networks much because they're busy. It takes time to get involved in social networking. Also, boomers may prefer face-to-face activities in their community and with their family and friends -- all healthy choices compared to screen time.

I write two blogs. It takes a lot of my time. I'm not doing social networking right now, but I plan to establish my own site based on social networking in a year or two.

I write a boomer consumer blog called The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com and a blog called the Boomer Consumer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer at http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/boomerconsumer/.

Rita

Dr.Mani

Great post, Beth. As a 40-something year old, I noticed an interesting thing - my peers tend to have similar interests and they are NOT the same ones of another age-group/generation.

Surely there's niche potential here. I took a small first step, but haven't fleshed out my idea so won't go into detail here. But if, for instance, someone comes up with Facebook for Seniors, with fewer rabbit holes to get lost down, and a HUGE simple 'back to home' button on all pages, I'm sure my 70+ year old mom will love to try it out.

But there are BIG challenges for anyone doing this. I've given mom a step by step instruction list on a piece of paper - which she carefully folded, kept in her purse, locked up the purse in a cupboard... and then proceeds to 'check her email' from memory, gets hopelessly lost, then frantically rings the bell to call me and ask "What do I do NOW? My Google mail won't open!"

It has happened 10 or more times already, and will happen a few times more. That's just a part of the challenge :)

Thought provoking discussion, though, and one a smart entrepreneur can jump on - and monetize big time. I've got a flood of ideas on this topic, if anyone wants to pick my brain, get in touch :)

All success
Dr.Mani

marnie webb

You might find some of the data here -- http://www.webuse.org/ -- or here -- http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/profile_tool.html -- interesting.

Brad Bell

Please indulge my gut instinct for a moment. I question the general trends that a. social networking is a youth tool, b. it's not an elder tool, and c. social networking will exist when young people get old.

a. I can't argue against the stats, and I don't want to. But I don't think there's anything youthful about social networking sites. Social networking sites make web publishing and other forms of web communication easy for non-technical people. It's more attractive to young people for a variety of reasons, but there's nothing intrinsic to the tool that is youthful.

I'm a forty something who has no use for Facebook because it merely duplicates all the tools I already use: email, blogs, chat, etc. I'm too accomplished an internet user to need it, and too global a citizen to use it the way a high school student might, as an extension of their real world social life, for example.

On the other hand, against the trend, my mom uses Facebook. She's probably 70 something. She keeps in touch with her sisters who live a few blocks away - replacing the daily phone calls - and plays Scrabble against my sister-in-law an ocean away. She's not a fan, mostly going along with her crowd.

b. I'd recommend Facebook to seniors as a way into the internet. It's perfect for them. As for the young, it's a quick and easy way to publish and communicate. If I would consider recommending say, Apple's online service vs. Facebook for my mom, I'd recommend Facebook. (She has an iBook.) Facebook takes all these separate kinds of publishing and wraps them up in one single package. Even with Apple, I need to explain what photocasting, and blogging, and newsfeeds, and instant messaging, etc. are.

The video is very flattering of youth, in the same way we flatter youth with an innate sense of digital comprehension, despite many of them not understanding the difference between LOL and ;-)
(Laughing out loud and winking to signify a joke ;-)

Social networking sites seem very transitory to me. When the youth of today age, they will not resemble the elder newbies in the video. Social networking will not exist as a category because everything will be a social networking tool. Social networking as it is, is a bit like AOL. It is designed to fragment communication; it's closed, non-internety. And it is emblematic of the problem of reducing everything in the world to fit in a browser. Granted, the reduction suggests that young, connected people can't cope with new applications, and so they aren't *actually* that tech-savvy, but that's how it seems. (Personally, I miss IRC and news groups, which changed my life.)

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