There are two types of older people in the world. There are those who avoid Social Media altogether, like the grandmother – bless her – who thinks you “download” an email and calls literally anything that comes off of the Internet foolishness. Then there are those seniors who embrace social media perhaps a bit too much.
We assume the former may disappear in time, but seniors who embrace social media are likely to be part of this online engagement henceforth. The number of older people joining Facebook is increasing while youth getting on the platform remains level. Who would have thought Facebook started out as a college website?
So why are we being plagued by the grandmas of the world? Well, the obvious answer is that many older people have plenty spare time and little else to do. As they get bolder using technology, they are enjoying spending time on the Internet. Some are retired, some have empty nests, and others are working only part time. Whatever their station, many seem to find social media a useful way to talk (and talk and talk and talk) about their interests.
There are the preachers who often share their religious views; the politicians who do the same with politics; the social butterflies who find Facebook a great way to reconnect with old friends or post their social activities; the travellers who share vacation pictures almost as much as Instagram influencers; the doting grandmothers who love to post about their grandchildren or write embarrassing comments under their grandkids’ posts; the overzealous ones who never grew up, fascinated by new technology like a kid with a new toy, or rather a teenager with a phone; and the ones you can tell are just trying to figure it all out.
To be clear, we are not promoting ageism on the Internet. We simply believe the Internet can only benefit from having many different generations on it – variety is the spice of life after all. The Internet doesn’t belong to any one group more than others, even if young people are often better at adapting to it. We’d do well to remember that interaction with rather than alienation from each other can actually teach us a lot. That is one of the purposes of the Internet, right? To connect people and bring them together. To help younger generations see the value of certain traditions and older generations understand more progressive views.
So, rather than seeing older people on the Internet as just entertaining or annoying, let’s recognize and be inspired by their courage to try learning something new, something they never grew up with the way we did. Let’s encourage them to not fear technology but rather help them out and show them that old dogs can learn new tricks. Let’s not shy away from interacting with them as so many of us often do in real life. After all, when it gets to be too much, there’s always the mute button.