A new study has revealed the social media networking preferences of older generations, and it turns out they don't care about photos of your lunch but are increasingly worried about personal privacy, according to researchers from Penn State University.
The study was the result of in-depth interviews with 46 older adults between 65 and 95 years old about their perceptions of Facebook, which was the leading social network at the time of writing. The group included 17 male participants and 29 female participants.
The participants all said they used a computer in their daily lives. A total of 20 Facebook users and 26 non-users participated in the study. Those with an account were asked about their experiences and those without were asked why they had avoided signing up.
"The biggest concern is privacy and it's not about revealing too much, it's that they assume that too many random people out there can get their hands on their information," said S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State.
"Control is really what privacy is all about.It's about the degree to which you feel that you have control over how your information is shared or circulated."
He said many in the study mentioned that boring posts kept them from joining the website.
"They believe that people reporting on the mundane and unremarkable things that they did — brushing their teeth, or what they had for lunch — is not worth talking about," Sundar continued.
"That's an issue, especially for this generation. The 55-plus folks were slow initially in adopting social media, but now they are one of the largest growing sectors for social media adoption."
The university, in a release on 17 August, published the views of one participant in the study.
"I am more of a Facebook voyeur, I just look to see what my friends are putting out there," the subject said. "I haven't put anything on there in years. I don't need to say, 'I'm having a great lunch!' and things like that, I don't understand that kind of communication."
As a result, the experts suggested that Facebook should focus on a privacy setting to "tap into" the growing senior market. The full research is available now and is set to be published in a forthcoming issue of Telematics and Informatics, an academic journal.
"Clear privacy control tools are needed to promote older adults' Facebook use," said Eun Hwa Jung, professor of new media at the National University of Singapore. "We think that privacy settings [...] need to be highly visible, especially when older adults are sharing information.
"Unlike younger people, older adults were encouraged by younger family members to join Facebook so that they could communicate. This implies that older adults' interaction via social networking sites can contribute to effective intergenerational communication."
Because all of the participants in this study lived in a retirement home, the researchers said that any future research should look at the use of Facebook by seniors who live alone.