Friday, November 6, 2009

Yr Dad's on Facebook

Here’s an NPR story about widespread online social networking use by older generations and the reaction from their younger internet using counterparts. It highlights how the young are now fleeing Facebook because usage is seen as characteristic of older generations and isn’t “cool” anymore:

Here’s an article about older adults using online social networking tools as professional, job search tools – an unprecedented trend for socially oriented sites like Facebook.

When reading (or listening) to these articles, two issues come to mind: diffusion and the establishment of social roles. Specifically, how do process of diffusion facilitate the spread in popularity of this trend from one generation to the next. Secondly, how does role maintenance affect the usage and perception of these tools?

Theories of social contagion indicate that people are more likely to adopt an innovation if they see that others important to them have adopted it as well. But from whom do they adopt this trend? Are they emulating their peers and trying to be closer to family members? Are they recognizing the benefits of usage in promoting colleagues’ careers? Bakshy et al. (2009) points out that in regards to this process, there is a necessary threshold of people needed to motivate people to shift their perspective and go through with the adoption. What, in this case, is the threshold necessary to prompt older individuals to initiate a personal paradigm shift?

A described by Hogg et al. (2009), people have a tendency toward “dissonance-reduction” and try to align their actions with the role they have internally developed for themselves. This suggests that older generations have re-identified themselves as “tech-savvy” individuals, recognize that others with similar characteristics have done the same, and recognize this role as salient and important- possibly because they feel attached to individuals who share the same function such as their children or grandchildren (Hogg et al. 2009). Our parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and more clearly think of themselves as Internet users and have adjusted their behavior accordingly (Burke and Reitz 1981).

I’d like to know, in order to garner a better picture of how this role shift has spread and how it’s perceived by older and younger generations, I’d like to know: do you have older friends and relatives how use online social networking tools (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)? How to they perceive their use of these tools? For example, my Dad, who prides himself on his professional credentials, uses Facebook for networking in relation to job leads. Additionally, how did they find about these tools? Was it through your urging? Have they seen their friends use them? Did the media persuade them that online social networking use is now acceptable for older adults? Do you think older users constitute a separate category of Internet users within themselves?


  1. I think it is true that the younger generation is migrating away from facebook because it is not cool anymore!

  2. My ex-boyfriend's grandma Facebook messages me on a daily basis. "Get a good breakfast." "Good luck on your exam."

    Although it's nice to keep in touch, sometimes it feels as if family members on Facebook is an...invasion of privacy of sorts. Youngsters often have a different persona that they present to their "friends" (and others they communicate with on social networking sites) than the persona they present to their parents. I've heard many of my friends discuss that they're uncomfortable with their parents' switch to Facebook.