Once considered the province of the young, social networking is increasingly a pursuit for people over 50, new research suggests.
The latest data from the Pew Research Center indicates that growth has slowed in the 18-29 and 30-49 age groups but is taking off for those aged 50-64 and 65+. Some 47% of internet users ages 50-64 and 26% of users age 65 and older now use social networking sites. People aged over 50 now account for 42% of all social networking users, up from 22% a year ago. The main social networking sites used by older people are Facebook and LinkedIn.
The research suggests three reasons why social networking might be taking off for Baby Boomers and seniors. Firstly, social networking is great for people who want to reconnect with friends from their past – and by definition, older people have more of a past than younger people. Secondly, social networking can help bridge the generation gap, by letting grandparents and parents keep in touch with their offspring. Finally, quite a few people with chronic diseases use social networking to reach out to other people with similar conditions – and older people are more likely to have chronic illnesses.
Meanwhile, teens seem to be losing interest in Facebook. A July 2010 research study suggested that one in five teenagers with a Facebook account had stopped or decreased their usage of the site since April 2010. Nearly one in 10 teen internet users said they had a Facebook profile but had completely abandoned it.
Could the two trends be linked? Facebook has become mainstream and that’s great for those of us who enjoy connecting with different generations of our family and friends from all walks of life. It’s also great for Facebook and its advertisers. But it comes at a price – mainstream and cool or cutting edge don’t go together. Many teens likely don’t want to hang out on a site with their parents or grandparents.