The age of social media

How each generation exists online

Maggie Curran, Opinion Editor

It’s time to face reality: your parents know Facebook just as well as you do. At least, that’s what Pew Research Center found in their 2015 study of social media demographics. While 82 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 use Facebook, a close 79 percent of adults ages 30-49 do as well. These numbers are staggering, considering it’s only been a little over a decade since MySpace and LinkedIn were developed in 2003, two early social media sites that most closely resemble what we consider social media today. In the time since then, we’ve become familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and so many more. However, it’s clear that some of us (not surprisingly, young adults) are a bit more invested in expanding and creating our online presence than others.

In 2014, Pew Research Center found 89 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds have at least one social media profile, while only 49 percent of people 65 or older have the same. It isn’t shocking that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to use social media. In fact, this is a pattern that’s existed for decades, long before social media was ever a concept. Hasn’t it always been the young adults who are the first to catch on to the “next big thing?” Weren’t The Beatles shunned by older generations while the Baby Boomers jammed out to “Hey Jude?” Didn’t cellphones have a tough time making waves with grandparents while the rest of us were texting our BFF Jill?

What’s interesting about social media in particular isn’t that young adults are savvier with it; it’s that within every age group, there is a preferred form of social media. As new forms of online communication originate, young adults tend to be the ones to embrace the change. In contrast, the older a person is, the less likely he or she is to delve further into the world of social media beyond Facebook. Even still, it doesn’t look like they’ll be leaving Facebook any time soon either.

According to the aforementioned study, 48 percent of people 65 or older have a Facebook profile. This number drops to 16 percent on Pinterest, 6 percent on Twitter, and only 4 percent on Instagram. In contrast, a whopping 82 percent of 18 to 29 year olds have a Facebook, 37 percent have a Pinterest, 32 percent have a Twitter, and 55 percent have an Instagram. The pattern stays consistent with the age groups in between as well: the younger the age, the more likely one is to have a variety of social media presences. However, if you’re wondering when your uncle will stop posting about his dinner every night on Facebook, the chances are it won’t be any time soon.

You don’t need to research these statistics to be aware of them: scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, you probably find a lot more status updates from your older relatives than you do your younger friends. Similarly, there aren’t too many teens that receive snapchats from their grandparents. It’s a universal truth proving itself right once again: the younger you are, the more open you are to new technological advances. Only now, technology is advancing so quickly, even old geezers can’t pass up creating at least one online profile.

So what does all this mean anyway? Well, for starters, it means that social media is no longer a young man’s game. We may as well stop complaining about our mothers posting recipes on our Facebook walls; it’s clear that they won’t be stopping any time soon. Not only that, but the growing widespread use of social media across all demographics is a testament to just how far we’ve come in a steadily advancing technological world. Sure, younger people still dominate the social media scene, but because so much of our lives exist online, even the older generations had to bite the bullet and accept the change that’s changed the world. It wasn’t too long ago that there was no way of keeping up with the lives of all of our distant relatives and friends. Today, access to their entire lives is only a click of a mouse away.

It’ll be interesting to see what the future brings for social media—what new forms will emerge, what demographics will use them, and whether or not the trend continues with older age groups falling behind online. It’s tough to image how the generation that grew up with technology will react to new advances as they age, but for now, one thing is for sure: new advances will happen, and when they do, it’ll probably be the youngsters who take full advantage of it.