Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
How Seniors Connect on Facebook: The Convergence of Online & Offline Social Networking

How Seniors Connect on Facebook: The Convergence of Online & Offline Social Networking

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Facebook friends are found by searching for those we know, knew in the past or looking at who Facebook recommends, right?  That may be how many people make connections on social media sites, but from our experience with seniors, particularly those in the oldest age groups, they often go about it differently.

Many seniors take an approach that really reflects a convergence between offline and online social networking.  With the number of seniors joining Facebook and other social networks growing rapidly, especially for the oldest age groups, it helps to know how to connect.  By no means do we intend this to be a generalization applicable to all seniors, any more than practices can be generalized to other groups.

Seniors often translate their offline or IRL (“in real life” or offline) connections to Facebook and other social networks rather than making new connections or linking with those they already know via the tools on the social media sites.  This is an added step that can serve to reduce the size of their online networks and can mean that friends and loved ones need to be proactive in making a social connection.

Seniors’ Connections

These are some of the ways we have seen seniors making Facebook links.

  • A grandchild or child sends a link to their Facebook profile so the senior can simply click to “friend” them.
  • Friends and acquaintances mention in a conversation at the store, church or some other social meeting place that they are on Facebook and suggest connecting.  At times emails with links are also required in these situations.
  • A local store or service provider, such as a doctor or hair stylist will reference their Facebook profile, or their business’s Facebook page, on their business card or in an ad in the local newspaper.
  • They may see a commercial for a product they like and use that encourages them to make a Facebook connection

We have also seen a number of seniors connect to family members and friends indirectly.  When one person in the senior’s offline network makes a Facebook connection, their existing friends will see that the connection has been made and initiate a “friend request” themselves.

Searches Lead to Frustration

What about searching for those a senior knows on the social network?  Facebook does, after all, have a search tool that many use to make connections.  Most of us have experienced frustration finding friends, though, particularly if they have a name that is fairly common — and especially if they don’t yet have a profile picture.  I know I have given up finding someone before out of frustration, even knowing they are on Facebook, and can understand someone less familiar with social media or less experience online overall deciding not to search at all after a couple of unsuccessful experiences.

Making “Friending” Easy

So you want to connect with an elder family member, friend or customer on Facebook…how should you go about doing so?  Here are a few suggestions from us; we hope you’ll share ways that have worked for you.

  • Send the senior an email with a link to your Facebook profile or page.  Of course, that only works if you first have their email address.
  • Write down the URL (web address) where you can be found on Facebook.  Include all characters that are needed to find you rather than assuming they’ll know the rest.
  • If you are a retailer or service provider, be sure you put your Facebook address on all your business cards, flyers and newspaper/periodical ads.  Don’t forget to put it on your coupons, which are often read more than other advertising.
  • Ask common friends if they have connected on Facebook and initiate a friend request yourself from the common friend’s list.

There are many social and other benefits seniors can get through Facebook, most based on the connections they make — and that we make with them.  We benefit from connecting with them as well, so connect today!

By the way, you can connect with US on Facebook at facebook.com/seniorcarecorner — you’ll make our day if you visit and “like” our page!

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