Ask the Experts

Facebook Flabbergast

I am sure my parents got grief as teens for watching too much TV. I get bothered for too much Facebook. Would you please explain it to them?

More than a question, your complaint reflects a generational shift. We have come a long way since your teenage parents watched some inane sitcom. However, they too struggled to explain its merits to your grandparents.

Today, social media has largely taken over from television as a source of entertainment for young people. Its virtues go much further, as it is a powerful tool to connect people and promote e-commerce.

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has become the most popular place on the internet, with almost 2 billion users. The majority of users are your generation. Statistics show 88% of people aged 18-29 are active on Facebook. Almost 36% of U.S. seniors are regular internet users. They are all potential FB members, if you can convert them to social media. Why is there resistance to adopt the new media?

There has been a shift in communication patterns. Grandparents wrote letters, parents talked on the phone, or in person, and the younger generation discovered social media. FB can addictively feed your curiosity, much more than a simple conversation. It creates instant popularity and glorifies personality worship, where users seek more contact, says celebrity-watching vacations marketer.

There are more reservations from parents to use it. Students today are more open and trusting when it comes to sharing information online. The concept of ‘friends’ has taken on a much lighter meaning.

Facebook is sharing, not transactional. It is a uniquely different medium than traditional radio or TV. If you look at online usage of older Americans, they are active reading news, banking, checking email. They fall behind with social media. The other activities have a more defined purpose. FB sharing has not become the preferred entertainment for older users.

Social media gives you feedback from other’s experience buying and using products. Your parents had the Yellow Pages and trade shows for their information. FB can be an unwelcome transfer of decision making from you to another party.

As your parents age, they create a smaller, closer group of friends. When was the last time you witnessed a new friend come into your parent’s life? At college, you are actively meeting and discarding new friends. Social media usage mirrors your life cycle.

Designers coined the phrase ‘feature bloat’. This is when they add every imaginable feature and option onto a program. This makes the learning curve steeper and more intimidating for your parents. The design does not serve the needs of older users.

One barrier to the adoption of new media by older folks is they believe they are too old to learn. Since the day we graduate high school and college, we no longer have any mandatory educational framework. In your career, your expertise grows and you stop actively learning.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Dr. Todd Curtis wrote the definitive guide, Parenting and the Internet.