You might be tempted to imagine that social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are strictly the territory of the young, but you’d be well off the mark! More and more seniors are taking to social media and making the most out of the different benefits to be found, from keeping in touch with loved ones to exploring a whole host of interests and getting involved in communities that span the globe. An American survey from Pew in 2018 found that 37% of people aged 65 and above were active on Social Media, while a similar survey in the Netherlands the year before found that 34% engaging in the same age demographic, and these numbers are growing steadily! Let’s take a look at what Social Media has to offer, and how to go about getting started if you haven’t taken the plunge already!
Connecting With The One’s You Love
These days families are often so spread out, with close family members living far away, often in different countries. Sometimes it isn’t so much the distance that separates us, but our hectic schedules! Whatever the reasons, social networking sites offer a fantastic opportunity to keep up to date with friends and family, sharing our experiences and interests. Social media platforms offer easy tools for each of us to share our lives within our virtual friendship circle.
A Whole World’s Worth Of Entertainment
Battling boredom is a common challenge in our senior years, but social media sites offer all sorts of entertainment, and we can access it with just a few clicks. You can look for and subscribe to pages and feeds that interest you, with anything from classical ballet to documentaries to the ever popular world of cats doing strange things! Gaming platforms built into social media sites are another way to connect with others and stimulate our minds, whether you get seriously competitive with your grandchildren playing Candy Crush or train your brain with a game of ‘Words With Friends’, (just like Scrabble), or a good old problem-solving puzzle!
Learn and Discover
Social media means that it has never been easier to be informed about global issues and discuss interesting ideas with others. You can go on a journey to learn about environmental issues, debate global politics or explore other cultures, all from the comfort of your sofa! You can seek out your favourite public figures as so many are active online these days, young and old, and you will probably find they are sharing all sorts of interesting ideas to pique your hunger for more. It is extraordinary to think that around half of the world’s population are active on social media, so that is a lot of information sharing and people to chat with.
Develop and Bond Over Hobbies
Sharing our creative projects has never been easier, and meandering through other peoples creations will likely stir up your own inventive juices. If you’d like to learn a new arts and crafts skill or take up an interesting DIY project you are certain to find many examples for inspiration, how-to guides, and people to chat to about what you are hoping to achieve. If you have old hobbies that you might not have shared with many in the past, now is your chance to connect too. Whether your interest is bird watching, crochet or obscure vintage cinema, you are bound to find others who share your passion and enthusiasm!
Where To Start
If you have never signed up for a social media account before, it might seem a little intimidating, but all of these platforms are designed to be incredibly user-friendly and offer online assistance. Here are our top picks for sites you might enjoy, and if you are unsure, you could simply ask your family and friends which social networking sites they use. You will be able to connect with them immediately, and you can always ask for help you if you get stuck with something.
As the global giant of the virtual social scene, Facebook is a great place to start for instant connection with our real-world friends and family. You can even look up people you haven’t seen for years! Facebook allows us to share our own photographs and thoughts, and post links to articles and websites that interest us. We can choose whether the things we post are seen by the whole world, or just those we have chosen to connect with. We can also choose not to post at all and instead to simply see what everyone else is up to! We receive a feed of all the posts from people we add as online friends, and from pages that we subscribe to such as news and culture websites, artists and organisations. We can curate our feeds as much as we like for a daily dose of all the things that stimulate us!
The Twitter format takes a little getting used to but is fascinating to watch and get involved in. As with Facebook you can make your own posts, or “tweets” in this case, and watch what other people are “tweeting”, but the text of each post is limited to a short sentence or two. This fast-paced format has lead to an online culture of heated debates and quick-witted insights that are exciting to follow, and Twitter is filled with journalists, writers, campaigners and entertainers who manage to cram a lot of ideas into those tiny bites of text! As you get going, watch out for lurking Twitter “trolls”. We’ll discuss who they are later!
Here is a social media site that is more geared towards self-expression via image sharing. Many users post their own photographs and “selfies” (enter the strange world of modern self-portraiture!) while others curate interesting pictures they have found around the web, covering interests such as history, fashion, pop culture and nature. You can comment on and discuss what others have shared, and send private messages.
Pinterest is a wonderful place to get ideas for projects and discover art from around the world. The website allows you to curate virtual scrapbooks, or mood boards if you will. You can find brilliant examples of all sorts of creative projects, from home improvement to cooking and crafts.
Staying Safe On Social Media
As you take the plunge into a wonderful virtual world, there are a few things to be mindful about to ensure that you stay safe online. As in real life, unfortunately, there are always a few people about who don’t have the best intentions. For this reason, it is very important to keep our personal information well guarded.
Choose secure passwords, mixing letters and numbers and avoiding familiar names and phrases. Have a look through the privacy settings of your social media account to make sure you know what people can discover about you, and what data is being collected by the website you are using. Be wary of links to external websites, following only those that have been posted by a person or organisation that you are familiar with and seem in character with what they would normally share. Keep in mind that everything that you “like” or share, and the comments you leave can be seen by others, so never share private information about your address, your schedule or your financial information, and think carefully about respecting the privacy of your family and friends if you are posting about them.
Lastly, to come back to those “trolls”, this word is used to describe a strange sort of person who makes it their business to be mean to others online, from the safe anonymity of their homes. Cowardly indeed! A common slogan on websites such as Twitter and Instagram is “Don’t feed the trolls!”, which is good advice. If you encounter a person who seems to be being vicious for no reason, it is best not to give them the attention they are craving. Just move on and continue enjoying all the wonderful and fascinating expression to be discovered on Social Media!