6 1/2 reasons you're not too old for Facebook

August 26, 2008|By JILL ROSEN | JILL ROSEN,jill.rosen@baltsun.com

Are you on Facebook? No? You're not? 'Cause you're too old?

Now that's just silly.

Two years ago, the social media Web site changed from college students-only to something anyone could join - no matter how many gray hairs they might have.

Facebook is no longer just for kids, but people with kids - even grandkids.

But yet, you hesitate.

If you're like a lot of folks older than 40, you e-mail, you love getting family photos online, but you avoid the social networking thing.

According to a recent JWT Boom/Third Age study of boomers and their online activity, about 53 percent said they weren't using anything like Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace. But about 22 percent were. And another 26 percent said they might try it.

Web experts predict Facebook will soon reflect the demographics of the Internet, where, according to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 70 percent of people ages 50 to 64 roam happily online.

Sarah Taylor, an Ontario mother who's 43, joined Facebook to keep an eye on her kids (another popular reason for joining, although not necessarily an honorable one). But Taylor ended up starting a group called Born in the 60s. It has 10,483 members and counting.

"We are showing the world that not only do we know about Facebook," she writes, "but we are actively using it!"

On her page, people are posting pictures of their childhood toys like Lite-Brite, posting old Three Stooges videos, reminiscing about drive-in theaters and talking about their favorite wines.

There are other social media sites designed especially for mature audiences, such as Eons.com and the AARP's Web site. But Facebook is the most popular social media site, and one of the most visited on the Internet.

Here are six good reasons (plus a bonus!) the AARP-eligible or almost-eligible might enjoy Facebook:

1

Support causes/political candidates

On Facebook, people can join groups designed to do everything from fight global hunger, help endangered species and support the troops.

With a click of your mouse, you can offer silent support or, if you want to get more involved, you can connect with like-minded people. One of the anti-global warming groups, for example, has more than 140,000 members, people who are posting videos and talking to each other about ways to lessen their carbon footprints.

The politically minded will also find plenty to do on Facebook. Everyone from Sen. John McCain to Sen. Barack Obama to Mayor Sheila Dixon and Gov. Martin O'Malley have Facebook pages.

You can visit McCain's and Obama's pages to see photos from the campaign trail, watch their latest ads and read news stories that the candidates (or their staff) have flagged.

2

Find old friends

When you sign up, you can plug in your college or high school as well as places you've worked and Facebook will automatically show you people you might know from those schools and offices.

And, you can search individually for long-lost friends and relatives and find out where they're living, what they look like these days, if they have kids.

"I'm keeping in touch with people I haven't talked to in a long time," says Taylor, who found an ex-boyfriend from 20 years ago. "And they can see what's going on in my life and ask me about it."

3

Another way to show off photos and videos of the kids and grandkids

Once you've showed all of your friends, neighbors and co-workers the pictures of your new baby or grandbaby, you can load those images onto Facebook and solicit oohs and aws from every friend, relative and acquaintance you ever had.

Proud parents and grandparents never had it so easy.

4

Keep in touch

E-mail is the digital generation's go-to way to keep casually in touch. But on Facebook, you can keep track of folks even more easily, without having to write to them.

The site sends members memos on their friends' major life moments (Stan's engaged!) or mundane daily doings (Alice is going to the dentist!). Just log on to find your Facebook circle's updated news.

5

Network

With its Six Degrees of Separation way of linking one person to hundreds of others, Facebook can be a networking dream, or at least a way of promoting yourself or whatever you might be selling.

If you have an event to promote, a house to sell, a resume to circulate or a Web site to share, it's hard to imagine an easier way.

Timmian Massie, the 50-year-old spokesman for Marist College in upstate New York who's been on Facebook for three years, has helped people find work through it.

"I go to my Facebook network and pass that person's name, background and resume around so they can be introduced to my gang and get help looking for jobs," he says. "If I were in need of a job, I'd put my name out there."

6

Fandom

Since his Olympic victory, thousands upon thousands of people (Massie included) have become Facebook fans of Michael Phelps.

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