Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Social Media...it's not an age thing!!

Hey there,

So every now and then it comes up when talking about social media: generation generalizations, particularly the younger ones not being able to disconnect and the older ones not connecting at all.

Photo from Pew Internet report
on Older Adults and
Social Media
Which is where the impetus for this post is coming from. Because I was recently a part of a conversation in which a person older than me who doesn't personally use social media projected their own communication preferences among the rest of their age demographic.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that the perception is reinforced by their circle of friends. But to say that older people as a whole are not on social media, as if it were a fact...well...it ignores the facts.

Everything is relative, though. I'm sure part of the reinforcement is that compared to younger generations, older ones might not be on, in the same sheer quantities. But they've been catching up.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has had a couple of relevant pieces in the past couple of years, one particularly looking at older adults and social networking.

In 2010, Mary Madden did an overview about their Older Adults and Social Media report. The overview begins with:
"While social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010."
She even briefly mentioned Twitter:
"At the same time, the use of status update services like Twitter has also grown—particularly among those ages 50-64. One in ten internet users ages 50 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others."
Again, might not be as much of a percentage as other age demographics, but the pattern of growth is certainly noteworthy. I highly recommend checking out the rest of the overview and the actual replort, even though 2010 seems like such a long time ago now. I especially recommend it if you like crunching numbers, and would like some to pull out the next time someone says that older people don't do social media.

She also gave a presentation in 2011 which is available at their website.

Just this past November, Joanna Brenner posted some commentary, Pew Internet: Social Networking (full detail).

While she provides a general overview, one graph that was particularly relevant was this.

That grey line (I'm sure it wasn't intentional) represents users age 65+ of social networks, which has been growing steadily over the past several years. The lighter blue line right above it is 50-64 year olds. Which has also been growing steadily, and then made a particularly noticeable jump in '12.

30-49 years olds have more or less leveled off. The 18-29 year olds had leveled off, and then jumped in '12, but being in the 90 percentile, there's only so much more room for growth.

All that being said, older people are clearly on social media in steadily increasing numbers, with almost 4 of 10 65+ year olds, and almost 6 out of 10 50-64 year olds.

So the next time you're having a discussion with someone of any age about older people not being on social media, you can better inform them.

Because it's not whether or not a particular demographic is on social media, whether it be age, race, etc., but it's about where they are and deciding to be there too.

You know, time, energy, money...resources in general, provided. Let me know what you think, if you've been a part of similar conversations, and what your own personal experiences have been,

- JR
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