I stumbled across a wonderful article that deals with the intersection of two of my favourite topics: intergenerational issues and the impact of social media on society. It analyses the starkly different ways that Facebook is used by Baby Boomers, as opposed to Millenials. It comes from a web site called The Cheat Sheet, which is “dedicated to providing audiences the information they want in an approachable, entertaining way”. But looking at the content and the presentation, it looks much more like advertising-ridden viral click bait (which it probably is). While I might be old fashioned, to me the term “cheat sheet” brings to mind a memory aid concise enough to sneak into an exam. Because the actual content of the article is so good, I’m reproducing it here in a true “cheat sheet” form!
|Connect with old friends||Make new friends|
|Value family connections||Prefer to not have family connections|
|Tend to overshare||Share the highlights of their lives|
|Do not use Facebook as their sole news source||Use Facebook as their primary news source|
|More likely to fall for scams||Less likely to fall for scams|
|Use Facebook to rekindle old flames||Use Tinder and other sites to kindle new flames|
|Use Facebook to bookmark sites||Use the browser’s bookmark to keep track|
So now that you have a real cheat sheet, let’s talk about what it means. There are some interesting themes here.
Friendship & Family: Boomers have accumulated plenty of friends already, and have had their share of relationships. So their approach is to reconnect rather than expand their network. Millennials are at a stage in life where they are expanding their personal networks and are less interested in family relationships. When I joined Facebook, there was a group (remember groups?) doing the rounds called “OMG my Mom’s on Facebook” as the young people expressed shock at the idea of their mothers invading their social media world. It seemed funny to me at the time, until a few years later when my mother (who was around 80) joined!
Media: For Boomers, social media augments traditional media – they get news from both. For Millennials, social media supercedes traditional media, so their newsfeed is their source of news. This is actually very significant, because it enhances the ‘echo chamber’ effect of social media (as users just see what their friends like and share) , and further erodes the value of online news sources, which are becoming less financially viable.
Technology: Millennials are far more tech savvy than Boomers, so understand the specific use of other platforms like Tinder, and other tools like browsers. They also know how to spot a scam a mile off.
What have you noticed about the difference between the way you and other generations (up or down) use social media?