Friend Request from Grandma: Pew Research Reports Older Generation Warming Up to Social Media

Did you grandmother just add you to Facebook? You aren’t alone. A new report suggests that more and more older people are using social media.

Did you grandmother just add you to Facebook? You aren’t alone. A new report suggests that more and more older people are using social media.

A new report titled “Generations 2010” released by Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that while youth are still more likely to use social networking sites, they are not the demographic seeing the most significant group seeing an increase in social media use. Who gets that title? Well, that would be the oldest generation, defined by the study as people seventy-four years of age and older. If you thought Grandpa wasn’t interesting in Farmville, you were sadly mistaken.

Since 2008, tweeting and Facebook commenting by this “oldest generation” has quadrupled from 4 to 16 percent (percentage of this demographic that tweets or comments). Moreover, social networking use amongst this generation has jumped from 9 percent last year to a whopping 43 percent this year. Similarly, in the category of “Younger Boomer” (age 46-55) there has been an increase in social media use. Last year, use was reported at 20%; whereas, this year it is reported at 50%.

This means that in less than a year Millennials (age 18-33) went from dominating in virtually all social networking categories in Pew’s first “Generations” report to being evened out by older generations. This doesn’t mean, of course, that different generations are engaging in social media into the same ways. Nor, does it mean there aren’t some categories in which Millennials are still dominant. Millennials remain far more likely to use mobile devices to access to the Internet, and to access the Internet via wi-fi. They are also more likely to use social networking sites and online classified ads. However, Gen X (34-45) and their parents are more likely to participate in other online spaces such as visiting government websites or getting financial information and news online.

And, of course, some things have nothing to do with age. Most people tend to participate in the same activities online, in roughly the same order of importance. Of these, email and search engines are deemed most used by every generation on the web. What’s the third most used service on the web for adults 18 and over? Searching for health information.

Another thing the generations can agree on is that social media is becoming more prevalent not less. According to the study one of the “few of the activities covered in this report have decreased in popularity for any age group, with the notable exception of blogging. Only half as many online teens work on their own blog as did in 2006, and Millennial generation adults ages 18-33 have also seen a modest decline—a development that may be related to the quickly-growing popularity of social network sites. “

What all this really means is that the internet is no longer a young person’s playground. It is being used by more and more people from all walks of life. On the one hand, of course, this kind of diversity adds an interesting dynamic to social media interactions and communities. On the other hand, does anyone really want their grandmother perusing their Las Vegas vacation pictures on Facebook?