It’s remarkable to think about how the Internet has grown to become the primary resource most people rely on for news, entertainment, and communication.
Social media is a general term for websites that connect people. Some of the most common platforms are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You don’t have to pay to use social media websites, but you do have to provide your email address and sometimes your name to create an account. Because your children and grandchildren are using them, it would be a good idea for you to try social media, if you haven’t already.
Researchers over the past few years have identified social media sites as the best way for different generations of families to communicate (1). While these sites may not be designed specifically for older adults, computer settings may be modified to adapt to individuals with visual- or hearing impairment. With a little practice, you can become an expert.
On Facebook you can load a photograph of yourself and add in a bio that includes your town, marital status, and interests. Then, you can search for and add friends. In this case friends can apply to anyone from your family to work colleagues. Depending on your privacy settings, you can have conversations in the form of private messages or write something on yours, or someone else’s “wall,” that can be seen by both of your groups of friends, and they can chime in.
Twitter is a site where you write short messages, or tweets, that are only 140 characters. If you lock your account, only people who follow you can see your tweets. Twitter popularized the use of the “hashtag”, which is the number symbol (#) followed by a keyword or phrase with no spaces. For example, if you want people interested in Caribbean cruises to see your great vacation picture, you can “tag” your tweet with “#caribbeancruise.”
Users on both of these sites communicate their approval in different ways. On Facebook, you can “like” a post by giving it a thumbs-up or by “reacting” to it with different emoticons. On Twitter, users show they “like” posts by clicking a small gray heart that turns red when it’s clicked.
You can use these sites to write messages to your friends and family, as well as share your favorite pictures, videos, and links. If you’re unable to fly across the country to attend a family event, through social media, you can watch video, see photos, and send a message.
Furthermore, use of social media to maintain a good relationship with your family can be good for your health. Studies show that rich social relationships can stave off dementia and can be a tool for maintaining those relationships (2). If you’re on the fence about using social media, it’s worth it to take the plunge and give it a shot. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
(1) Nef, T., Ganea, R., Müri, R., & Mosimann, U. (2013). Social networking sites and older users: A systematic review. International Psychogeriatrics, 25, 1041-1053. link
(2) Wald, C. (2016). Social networks: Better together. Nature, 531, S14-S15. link
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