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Facebook getting old

07 Mar 2010
Posted by Shannon

Facebook is getting old in more ways than one, as I say in the Winnipeg Free Press

Ever since early 2009, when Facebook trumpeted the fact that the female 55+ demographic grew by 550 per cent (while underplaying the fact that the under-30 enthusiasm stagnated) I’ve been amused to see the site evolving into the equivalent of the retirement home’s social hub.

 It's not surprise the 20somethings are running, screaming. I thought we all knew that when your parents start using hula hoops and yo-yos, it’s time to move on to something else.

But a year later, I’m still hearing would-be hipsters touting FB’s wonders for reaching the young. I like to refer them to the February 2009 Time article, which offered 10 reasons “Why Facebook is for old fogies.” It ranges from the practical – FB is handy for catching up with people you’ve lost track of, which is a problem peculiar to the aged --  to the obvious business uses.

 Facebook is the perfect tool for marketers and other stalkers, of course. People hand over whacks of detailed personal information about themselves – and their friends! -- voluntarily. As I keep joking, who needs the CIA, we have Facebook.

 Well, I’m not really joking.

Originally, university students embraced Facebook as a mating strategy. (Yes, mom, that’s why they showed all those photos of themselves as naked, drunken party animals: they were advertising their charms on the way to getting laid.) But networking and data mining is what oldsters need to do because they have to make money. Partly because they have to fund their offspring’s university education and wild partying.

 If you’re in any doubt as to FB’s primary use, consult the site’s Facebook Marketing Bible: the Guide to Marketing Your Brand, Company, Product, or Service Inside Facebook (2007).

TimeMag suggested some other FB advantages that make it particularly appealing to the old. You don’t have to go out to socialize (which would involve shucking the carpet slippers). And you can bore people endlessly with photos of your children and grandchildren – something the middle-aged love to do.

 To that, I would add the appeal of all the addictive social games – those who might have once played bridge are now farming on Facebook.

A Standford researcher suggests that older women have adopted FB in droves as way to keep tabs on children and grandchildren. (Which may explain all the 20somethings bailing.)

 But according to parenting.com, FB and other online activities are turning into digital crack for many housebound women. Apparently, the nature of relentless domesticity leaves them desperate “to express themselves.”

 Facebook is the ideal utility for that, of course, since it celebrates the trivial. It also provides an illusion of an audience, while removing the burden the rest of us might feel to make polite noises about the minutiae of their lives.