Saturday, February 21, 2009

Facebook: Not just for the under 30 crowd

As of mid-Feb Facebook reached 175 million users and was growing at a rate of 600,000 users per day.  Yet when I mentioned Facebook to my 'over 60' card playing cohorts the other night, they looked at me like I had two heads.  I got head cocks, blank stares and one 'that's a kid thing' comment.  My appeal that it was a good way to keep up with their grandkids was dismissed and the conversation moved on.

The truth is that the largest increase in Facebook users is women over 55.  Why??  My theory is that woman are simply more communicative than men and they do want to connect with their kids and grandkids by whatever the current means of communication is .. even if it takes them out of their comfort zone.  My god mother has a cell phone that she barely knows how to use just so she can talk to her grandkids whenever they want.  Most of my older friends that are on Facebook, originally got on because a grandchild asked them and in many cases set-it up for them.  Grandparents connecting with their grandkids made for more Grandparents on Facebook which then has made the Grandparents Friend networks grow to something that can be relative to their everyday life.

Yes, Facebook 'can be' relative to and enhance your everyday life.  People are still learning how to use social networking in their lives.  Kids use Facebook somewhat differently than adults.  Every kid I know has no less than 500 friends, most whom they barely know or may have met once or may just be a friend of a friend. Facebook started as a way for college and high school kids to connect and has evolved from there.  President Obama used social networking to rally volunteers and support during his run for office.  Pastors use Facebook and MySpace to keep in touch with their flocks.  Non-profits, Businesses and Politicians are going to where the people are learning how to use social networks to further their causes.  Most people are just using it as a means to connect with their family and friends.  

I see Facebook as a non-invasive means to streamline my communications with friends.  I have cut back my personal email to almost nothing and use Facebook to share videos, links, and pictures with my friends instead of emailing.  I can Instant Message with them or play a game of scrabble.  I don't have to worry about who has a fast or slow internet connection or sending something that they don't want to see.  I post it all on Facebook once and then people can choose to look at a pic, or check out a video or not.  I am not clogging anyone's email box.   I make a daily post on whatever is going on in my life that all my friends can see.  (A post or status update is one line long.)  They can comment if they want or not .. doesn't matter.  I don't have or want 500 Facebook friends, just folks I know and want to stay connected with.  I find that with most of my Facebook friends that I see in person or talk to on the phone, we just pick up our conversation with what one of us has posted on Facebook.  It's nice.  No need to back track on what's been going on in life, they know Aunt Millie was having surgery today for her gall bladder and we can pick up the conversation on how Aunt Millie is rather than going through the whole "Oh know, what happened to Aunt Millie" dialog from the start.

For the streamline thing to work though your friends need to post to.  I am committed to making a post everyday that I have access to internet.   I commit at least 2 minutes every morning to make my post & check my News feeds and friends status's, look at pictures and make comments.   About half of my friends make regular status updates as well, it gives me a glimpse of what is going on in their life.  I enjoy it and wish the other half of my friends did the same.  It is after all a communication tool.  Communication always works best when both sides are involved.
 
Most of the Facebook naysayers I have run into are over 40 and haven't tried it.  They have a million excuses and unfounded worries.  Like anything online, you do need to smart and accept only people you know as friends, use the privacy controls, don't post your address, and those sorts of things.  We can learn from the mistakes of youth in this area.  The truth is that Facebook is here to stay, just as the remote control, cell phones and email, so we need to get over it.    What was a 'kid thing' is being woven into the fabric of our society .. resistance is futile.  The older we are the harder it is to embrace change but I encourage you to lay down the excuses for a day, add a profile and give Facebook serious chance.  There is always the off chance that our kids actually can teach us better ways to communicate.  It's a free and just takes a small investment of time.   Not much of a cost to build your relationships whether they are family or friends near are far from you.   Excuse me while I get back to Facebook, I think it's my turn to play a Scrabble word, I need to Instant message with a friend in Alaska and am hoping my cousin in Japan posts some new pics today.




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