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Are you over the age of 36? You’re a minority on Social Networks, but why?

Living in the Knoxville region of Tennessee I have become an avid listener of the “Marc, Kim, and Frank” morning show. They are a great balance of sweet, spicy, and just plain odd. Something was discussed the other morning which is what influenced this post. It would seem that there has been a pattern with the last two blog entries, they have had something to do with parents. Not to disappoint, this post will complete the trilogy but rest assured there are no plans for any prequels or sequels.

Marc is the proud father of three girls, of the two oldest, one is in college and the other is in high school. The only reason I mention this is because its being a father of teenage girls (likely the same for boys as well) that sparked the debate into whether or not it’s acceptable for a father to have a Facebook page. I won’t cover the whole discussion but let’s just say his daughters cringed in embarrassment (slightly disappointed) at the very mention of their dad setting up a Facebook page, even if it was just to see pictures from his High School reunion. This was a little bit concerning to me being the owner of a social network that doesn’t just discuss high school related issues but tackles issues pertinent to an older crowd as well. So here is the question at hand, is there a stigma associated with adults or more specifically parents who participate in social networks? I hope not.

The graph above shows the percentage of users broken down by age brackets. Data used for this chart was collected from 2007)(The direct link is no longer available and has been deactivated.)

Sadly enough the graph resembles water slides at Dollywood Splash Country (East Tennessee Water Park). This is not encouraging news for website owners like me. The graph covers three of the more popular social networks but it should be noted that until recently Facebook only allowed users with student email addresses, so this may be to blame for their water slide demographic but what about the others? So what is it that keeps adults over the age of 36 from participating on social networks? Is it an embarrassing stigma, a lack of experience with computers, the abundance of young users, or just the overall lack of interest? I’m going to guess and say it’s a bit of everything. Throughout my life I have lived by many mottos but one more than others, “when in doubt – just ask mom” so that is exactly what I did. I asked mom what kept her and other people over the age of 36 from participating in social networks. Here is what my mother had to say:

“I believe that many older people don’t use social networks mostly because they are too complicated. Most of us middle aged and older people have learned basic computer skills but we’ve had to learn them later in life. I think this does create some limits for many of us. I am determined to overcome my fear of the internet and all it entails but I have to go slowly or I feel overwhelmed. was the first social network I’ve actually been able to sign up for and navigate around without any help. I feel like I’ve taken a big step towards overcoming some of my “internet fear” and have found that I really enjoy going on there to see what other people are saying about today’s issues and giving my opinion as well.

I urge my fellow middle aged and older people to take a deep breath and jump in to It’s easy to sign up and get around in and it’s fun.”

I don’t think it’s impossible for a social network to be more welcoming to people of all ages, not to do a shameless self promotion but covers topics that should interest teenagers all the way up to retirees. With rivalries stretching from texting versus emailing to the statue of David versus the Mona Lisa, it’s easy to see why people of any age bracket could find something to participate in and if you don’t see something you like, add your ideas and opinions to the website by starting your own rivalry.

In addition to the fear of not knowing how to get around mentioned by my mother, I think there is a definite stigma associated with most social networks and we should all understand why Marc’s daughters would be embarrassed if their dad set up a Facebook page. However, Facebook has always been aimed at a younger crowd until recently when they opened it up to everyone. It would be easy to get intimidated by a website that is absolutely dominated by a younger population. JealousBrother is different, we’re a very new website, everyone is invited to participate, and the website is very easy to navigate. Throughout the fifteen plus months of development (still in development), ease of use was always one of our biggest priorities. JealousBrother currently has over 130 users (growing daily) from nearly every age bracket, including my wife’s grandfather of 73 who is very active on the website.

If the stigma exists, is it there for good? I’m attempting to stay optimistic by saying I think it can in part be lifted from society’s perception but likely will not be completely chalked off. There are far too many negatives because of a small number of people out there that create these unattractive opinions of social networks through inappropriate content and unbelievable behavior. The stigma may be a difficult thing to compete with but it is still possible to broaden the age diversity through individual efforts and social networks that accommodate users of all ages. So everyone out there, reassure your parents and grandparents that there’s nothing wrong with joining a social network, spend a few minutes each week teaching them how to use the computer, inform them that JealousBrother isn’t just for kids and is easy to use, and hopefully any lack of interest they had before will now be alleviated.

2 Responses to “Are you over the age of 36? You’re a minority on Social Networks, but why?”

  1. I am not there yet, I am 30 so I guess I have some time left to be a majority, I love the post so I stumbled it.

    Posted on by: funny t shirts
  2. I’m a 41 year old Mom, and very computer literate.The reason I don’t use social networks, is because they are an obvious privacy fiasco waiting to happen.
    Young people are so excited to do things in life that they cant wait to show off for their friends and attempt to garner attention no matter what the risk to their career or long term social life. By the time you get to your forties, you are more able to resist publishing all your personal business on a webpage for no particular reason other than to hope other people will look at it and think its cool.
    Have fun kids, but don’t assume that we old fogies don’t have glittery myspace pages is because we haven’t figured out how to work the internets 😉

    Posted on by: Mom

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