Friday, February 6, 2009

Boomers Discover Facebook

Baby Boomers long considered Facebook, birthed in a Harvard College dormitory in 2004, as a frivolous Internet novelty that gripped young people but was of no conceivable interest to serious people. That was then, this is now.


The Facebook phenomenon migrated out of dorms as college kids entered the working world, and then percolated upward through the age strata. Within the past half year or so, Facebook has breeched the Boomer barrier. We Boomers first started receiving "friend" requests from younger colleagues. Many of us set up Facebook profiles out of curiosity. The random friending requests turned into a trickle, and the trickle became a flow. Then came the emails from friends, and the requests to join groups, and invitations to go places, and friending requests from people we don't even know.

The Facebooking of the Baby Boomer generation was first recognized last week as a bona fide social phenomenon, as far as we have noticed, when Mackenzie Carpenter, a writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, penned an article, "OMG! Mom's on Facebook! And so are a lot of boomers."

While Facebook is still dominated by young people, nearly a third of its users are between the ages of 35 and 54, according to Comscore, an online audience measuring company. In our observation, an increasing number over 55-and-overs are signing up as well.

The online interaction raises a host of social dilemmas that Boomers have never confronted before and, as far as we know, Emily Post has never addressed in her etiquette book. What happens if you're friended by your boss -- whom you don't like? Is it better to reject an unwanted friending request outright, or is that too harsh -- is it better to simply leave such a request hanging? Closer to home: Is it appropriate for a Boomer to "friend" his 23-year-old daughter? And should he take umbrage if she turns him down?

For all the current fascination, we doubt that Facebook will ever take root among Boomers like it has with younger generations. We Boomers -- especially those of us with children at home -- are time starved. We don't have time to answer our regular email accounts, much less keep up with the barrage unleashed by Facebook or to keep our profiles continually updated. While it's pleasant to be contacted by the occasional long-lost friend, we'd rather not face the pressure of keeping up with a lifetime's worth of acquaintances. Twenty or thirty "real world" friends is about all that most of us can handle. In our book, face-to-face relationships are still best.

2 comments:

Rob Brodsky said...

I agree that face-to-face interaction with friends is best, by far. But most of my very best friends are scattered across the country. So, Facebook is quickly becoming my preferred method for communicating with them. We don't even have time for phone calls -- despite the fact that I have one strapped to my body all day long.

Patty Gale said...

At first, I resisted Facebook, although as someone who has always marketed my business online, I knew eventually I'd have to 'give in.'

I primarily use LinkedIn for business networking online.

Now that I have delved into Facebook, it's great for "business casual." I've been able to network with people across the country and across the globe.

I've reconnected with old friends that I haven't seen or heard from in years and it's been great to catch up.

This is what makes the Internet so powerful. You can meet and network with people that you never would have had access to under 'real world' circumstances.

Valuable Insights into the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of Today's Baby Boomers

This blog is by the authors of Boomer Consumer: Ten New Rules for Marketing to America's Largest, Wealthiest and Most Influential Group, on sale now.

Here is where you'll find information referenced in the book, as well as updates, news and perspectives from Matt Thornhill and John Martin, founders of the Boomer Project.