If only Facebook had been around in the 1950s…

We’ve been talking a lot about whether or not social media is the way to go for our firm. By the fact that I have a blog (and the fact that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably found out about it through the link I put on Twitter), you can guess my stance on whether or not we should do it (hint: it’s yes. Duh.). There’s been a lot of resistance from folks who aren’t familiar with things like blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. These people know that these things are part of the amorphous yet trendy “social media movement”, but they don’t really get what’s behind them and don’t really use them. These (typically over 50) folks are contributing to statistics that show a huge age divide in the use of Facebook. And from my vantage point, they’re holding up the whole process and making everything so difficult.

So what’s the deal? Different people have different theories, but I’m here’s an alternative perspective for you.

Gen Y grew up with computers at their fingertips. As social media spawned more social media, there was always a place to go to make a statement and share info, be it news or gossip. For folks like me who grew up using an online diary like a Livejournal or a Xanga, we were blogging (even if it was in a mediocre form of the medium in which I vented all of my teenage angst – man that was lame…) before we even knew what the term meant! When Facebook evolved, it wasn’t difficult for us to pick it up and use it to connect with our high school and college friends and later people from our childhoods or from our jobs because we were used to it. When we want to connect with someone, we do it. When we see someone updated their status, we don’t care if we haven’t spoken in months, we comment on it. We share with the world whatever we want, if only just to talk about ourselves, again and again and again (have I mentioned this is my blog and I’ll say whatever I want? Oh, just checking…). We’re honest to a fault and we’re not shy about saying what’s on our mind.

But Baby Boomers (and some shy Gen Xers) aren’t really comfortable with that. They’re not as willing to share things with the whole world because that’s not how they were raised. There’s no “here’s my two cents” from BBs – if it’s important, they’ll speak up, but if it’s not, they’ll keep it to themselves and move on, plain and simple. As one Baby Boomer said to me today, “If you had something negative to say, you were told to shut up”. And that’s because there was nowhere else to turn, no online portal to go to. It was keep your chin down and do what you’re told to do or get out. So now, when there are a million channels to use, they’re not only overwhelmed from not being familiar with all of the options, but they’re conflicted between branching out and trying something new (and BBs aren’t really known for their willingness to play around with technology) and their reticence to rock the boat.

You can start to see it from their point of view, eh?

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4 responses to “If only Facebook had been around in the 1950s…

  1. Oh nooz – you’ve got your facts off a bit – like everything else there is no absolute! My teen ager thinks I’m nuts cause I love Twitter – and I’m always on FaceBook – and I’m uh, close to 50. He won’t touch Twitter – most of my under 30 FB friends don’t get it either – but those of us in our 30-40-50’s who have our own businesses are all about social media.

  2. @Kate – Numbers don’t lie. Check the link in my first paragraph for more info, but the figures show that Facebook is more commonly used by Gen Yers than any other generation. You’ll find exceptions to any stat, and that’s awesome that you’re among them. Keep it up! Vive le social media!

  3. I was thinking this morning that keeping up with Twitter and Facebook takes a lot of time. And then I thought of this post. Maybe there’s nothing more to the generational divide on this issue than time. Gen Y grew up with the internet as a source of information, entertainment and connection. For Baby Boomers (and maybe a few Gen Xers), it takes time to learn and get into it. And if you’re plate is already full with other things and you don’t have do it at work, social media is like that TV show that everyone is talking about and it sounds interesting to you, but you just don’t have the time to figure out what time and what channel it’s on. It’s not enough of a priority to you to take the time out of your schedule because really, it’s just another form of entertainment people are into these days.

  4. @The Pro – I’d buy that. I think that that adds a piece of the puzzle to the generational differences concerning social media. There are certainly a dozen different reasons and it seems like all of them together do the task of explaining why it is the way it is.

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