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The information presented on this page was originally released on March 15, 2012. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Social media is for seniors, too
The fastest-growing segment of Facebook users in the United States is senior citizens. Unfortunately, many seniors feel lost when it comes to Facebook and other social media.
A common refrain I hear from many seniors is that social media is something that has passed them by or they just aren’t sharp enough to keep up with all this new-fangled technology. This is regrettable because our seniors have a great deal to offer. In fact, most of the information younger generations are looking up on sites like Google, YouTube and Pinterest are things most seniors already know.
For example, I recently took two college students on an overnight trip to conduct a workshop. One showed up late for the workshop because he had to look up how to iron a shirt on YouTube. He didn’t know how to do it, and his shirt was too wrinkled to wear otherwise. From sewing to cooking and everything in between, much of the information we look up on our computers is information our seniors already know.
However, social media sites allow senior citizens to keep up with grandchildren and give them a voice on local events. In the world of social media, the big names to know are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest -- the newcomer to the group.
Facebook is the most popular website in the world with more than 800 million users worldwide. Facebook users can create a public account or a private account. A public account can be viewed by anyone, whereas a private account is viewable only by friends the user designates. Users can post status updates (which are brief updates about what is going on at the moment), photos, videos and events. Video chat is also available on Facebook. You might think of Facebook as a family reunion without the fried chicken.
YouTube is the second most popular website. YouTube allows users to upload videos for others to see. Some users upload video of baby’s first steps or video taken with cell phones during Mardi Gras. Others, like your
Extension Service, post educational videos to help viewers learn how to plant a garden or prune rose bushes.
Twitter is a social media tool that is rapidly gaining ground. People post short messages to their Twitter account. These messages can be only 140 characters long; the messages are called tweets. People who read your tweets are called followers. It is possible to tweet photos and video from your Twitter account, or you can post them through sites such as twitpic.com and twitvid.com. Tweets can also be delivered instantly to your followers’ cell phones.
When you see the hash tag symbol followed by a word (such as #hailstate), the hashtag means the word that follows is a category. The hashtag allows users to categorize their tweets. Anytime you tweet “#hailstate,” your tweet shows up in the #hailstate category search.
Pinterest is a social media tool that is incredibly popular with women. You can join by invitation from a Pinterest user or by requesting a login from the company site. Once you are on Pinterest, you can create boards. These boards can be divided into categories such as recipes, decorating and parties. Think of them as digital corkboards. Once you create your board, you can “pin” photos to the board. It is very similar to cutting photos out of magazines and tacking them to a bulletin board for future reference. Others can follow your boards and see what you are pinning.
While there is nothing new under the sun, the way we access information has changed. Social media can be a bit overwhelming, but selecting the social media that meets your needs and helps you connect with your friends and family is key to success.