Boomers Take Over Social Media

Your mom wants to friend you. So does your grandma. Welcome to the new generation of Facebook. While the popular website originally flourished with young people, it’s starting to look more like an AARP convention. In fact, the fastest growing demographic for Facebook is now the 50-and-older set. The average age for its users is 38.4.

The reason for this is because it’s easier for Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers to reconnect with old friends. But it’s also changing their relationships. According to Nathan Wright of social media company Lava Row, there’s no longer an “in your face” connection. Instead, social media is a form of communication­ coined as “ambient intimacy.” Whereas people used to have to make appointments to see one another, all they have to do now it log onto their favorite social media website.

Wright says social media flattens the world geographically and between generations. “It gives parents and grandparents a window into their families’ lives,” he says. “What they can’t accomplish through phone calls, letters, or seeing each other once a year, they can now make up for.”

It has also forced older Facebook users to do something that goes against their tendencies, Wright says. Younger, net-native Generation Y users are used to sharing everything, whether it’s their age, cell phone number, e-mail address or pictures from spring break. But gradually older generations are beginning to share more. Sharing through status updates—which may appear mundane to outsiders—can be a tool used for connecting with family on an ambient level.

Carole Lieberman, self-proclaimed “media psychiatrist,” says this type of communication may have its hardships. The focus on technological relationships may mean less communication among people from younger generation with the older generations. Lieberman also says she thinks people are noticing the consequences. “The tide is beginning to turn,” Lieberman says. “More people are realizing that they are spending their life on the Internet rather than having a real life in the world, and that they are missing out on a lot of real fulfillment.”

But until the older generations come back from cyberspace, don’t hyperventilate when you see your great grandfather’s friend request in your notifications.

Friending Your Mom

Step 1. Immediately think before acting. Once you friend your mom, you can’t take it back. De-friending is even more frowned upon than ignoring a friend request.

Step 2. Change your privacy settings. You know what you want your mom to see and what you don’t want her to see. Go to the Account button in the upper right hand corner and select Privacy Settings. Block everything you’re concerned about.

Step 3. Create a family group on Facebook. Through this, you can control what you want them to have access to on your profile.