Grandparents Gone Wired

This Thanksgiving I made the not-so-astute observation that all the adults were thoroughly connected. Not to each other in deep, enriching family conversation, but rather connected to the Internet.

I noticed my parents surfing on Facebook, uploading photos of family in tryptophan-induced comas. When I couldn’t find the UK basketball game on TV, my grandpa easily navigated to the live stream feed online, commenting on the high-resolution picture quality in contrast to other games he watched earlier that week.

I have four sets of grandparents. All of them have a presence on Facebook. Two sets use Skype fluently. One grandpa has more apps on his iPhone than I do, and I’m kind of an app freak.

But I shouldn’t have freaked out.

Baby boomers accounted for more than 25 percent of all active users on social networking sites in 2010, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. In 2008, people over the age of 50 accounted for only 11 percent of all cyber-socialites.

Compare those numbers to the percent of college-age students, which took a significant decline from 28 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2010.

The exact demographic Mark Zuckerberg targeted when founding Facebook has become a minority on it.

And if your grandpappy is still wired on coffee instead of to a keyboard, don’t expect that to last. DoSomething.org launched a campaign to educate grandparents on how to use new technology called “Grandparents Gone Wired.” It plans on rewarding little Jimmy down the street from grandma to teach her how to use her laptop in exchange for sweet iTunes gift cards and other rewards.

With the average Facebook user more likely bound on an express train to a mid-life crisis than an entry-level job opening, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate how youth and young adults view social media.

Growing up with social networks, students have become acclimated to the perception that they were a part of an exclusive club. Now, that club is family friendly.

When teachers and community members would preach to me in high school about “keeping my online profile clean,” I took the advice half-heartedly. I didn’t know who was looking at my profile, unless they liked or commented on a status. If they didn’t like it, oh well.

This is not the case anymore. My family serves as a constant reminder that I’m being watched every time they like a post I know they don’t understand.

I’ve realized our use of social media should be maturing with our age. But even if it does, social networks are getting older faster than we are.

Remember, Facebook is not a party house. It’s your mammaw’s house. And every day is Thanksgiving.

Brandon Goodwin is a journalism junior and Kernel’s web director. Email bgoodwin@kykernel.com.

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