PRIME MAGAZINE — 29 April 2016
What you should know about social media

By Robyn A. Friedman

City & Shore PRIME

Are you social-media savvy, using your iPad to cross-post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? Or do you have no idea what the previous sentence means? Either way, you’re not alone.

“Baby boomers are increasingly taking to social media, using smartphones, tablets and social apps to keep in touch with family and friends,” says Alex de Carvalho, a social-media strategist in Miami. “But while they have great purchasing power and social capital among their peers, they often lack the tech savvy of their children and younger generations who were born into the digital age.”

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of adults 50 and older using social media is on the upswing. The most common platform for older adults: Facebook, which is used by more than half of all online adults 65 and older.

Intimidated by social media? You needn’t be. Here’s the lowdown on the most common sites to help you feel more confident the next time you pick up your smartphone. Each can be accessed online, at the websites listed below, or via iPhone or Android smartphone apps.

Facebook (

Facebook is the most popular social-media site for users age 50 and over. Usage by older adults has become so common that many younger users are switching to other sites to avoid being on the same site as Mom, Dad – and the grandparents!

Facebook — which has over 1 billion daily active users — is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, reconnect with people from the past or just play games like Words With Friends or Candy Crush. It’s simple to post status updates as well as photos and videos. Facebook Groups even allow you to connect with people with similar interests

Facebook also has a chat program called Messenger that’s built right in, so it’s easy to chat live with friends and family while either online or via the Facebook app. The company also recently added Facebook Live video, which allows users to broadcast real-time video to followers.


Twitter ( 

You better be concise to use Twitter, because your basic messages — called tweets — are limited to 140 characters. Twitter is great for receiving instantaneous updates from people around the world — or posting your own. You can follow your friends, TV stars, politicians, sports figures —nearly everyone is tweeting these days and sharing information and photos of their lives.

Got a complaint about a product or service? Many people use Twitter to post about it and often catch the attention of the company they wrote about, leading to positive results.

While Twitter is particularly popular with those under 50 and the college-educated, it has seen significant increases in usage among older adults.

LinkedIn ( 

This is the world’s largest professional network, with more than 400 million members in 200 countries. Its mission is to connect the world’s professionals. LinkedIn is commonly used by job-seekers and those trying to attract new customers.

LinkedIn allows you to connect with business associates (and others). Once you do, you can see their news, updates and insights, and, in turn, they will see yours if you post. Postings on LinkedIn are generally about professional or business topics, unlike Facebook, where users post more personal updates.

The site is popular among college graduates, higher-income households and employees. But older users are flocking to LinkedIn as well, with the percentage of those 50-64 rising from 24 to 30 percent between 2013 and 2014 and those 65-plus rising from 13 to 21 percent during the same period.


Instagram ( 

This is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through photographs. Just snap a shot with your smartphone, and upload it to the site via the Instagram app, which is available in both the Apple App and Google Play Stores.

Photos are public by default, so if you want to limit who can see them, remember to select the special private option. This mode allows you to pre-approve “follow” requests and thus limit who can see your photographs.

Pinterest ( 

Pinterest is an online bulletin board that allows you to post website links, images, recipes – really, information about anything – and share it with friends. It’s a great way to discover and save creative ideas.

Planning a wedding? Set up a Pinterest board to collect ideas for dresses, venues, bands or decorations. Enjoy cooking? Now you have a place to post your favorite recipes. You can set up separate boards for your various interests and collaborate with others.

Privacy Matters

There are many other social-media platforms – Tumblr, Google+, Vine, Snapchat, Reddit, Flickr and newcomer Pheed, just to name a few – that are frequented by people of varying ages and interests.

All of the social media sites above are free to use, although you should be aware that some might offer additional services for a fee. Facebook, for example, has numerous games that invite you to purchase “boosters” to obtain an advantage in the game.

Another issue: privacy. Remember that the purpose of social media is to share information with other people — but you don’t want to sacrifice too much privacy in the process. When you set up your social media accounts, pay close attention to your privacy and security settings to secure your account and to ensure that the information you post is seen only by the people you intend.

For more information about social-media platforms and how to use them, as well as online safety, check out AARP’s TEK (Technology, Education, Knowledge) site, at


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