Examining Social Media Use Among Older Adults

Social media is a powerful tool that can connect family and friends across long distances and link people with similar interests. Social media has been widely adopted by younger adults, but older adults have been less likely to use such applications.

A survey of 142 older adults (Mage=72 years, SD=11; range: 52-92) living in the metropolitan Atlanta area was conducted to understand the characteristics of older adults who do and do not use Facebook, a popular and widespread social media application. The present study examined the relationship between Facebook use and loneliness, social satisfaction, and confidence with technology. Demographic relationships were also examined, such as gender and age. Fifty-nine participants (42%) identified themselves as current Facebook users; 83 participants (58%) were not Facebook users. Non-Facebook users were significantly older (Mage= 75.3 years) than Facebook users (Mage= 66.5 years).

Counter to expectations, there was not a significant difference in loneliness between Facebook users and non-users for this sample. However, Facebook users did score higher on assessments of social satisfaction and confidence with technology than did non-users. These preliminary results suggest that many older adults do use Facebook and they primarily use it to stay connected with family. As adults enter into older adulthood, maintaining social connectedness may become more difficult due to mobility limitations, chronic diseases, and other age-related issues, thus decreasing physical connectedness with friends, family, and community. For these reasons, social media may begin to play a more active role in keeping this population socially connected. Therefore, understanding the factors that influence social media use in older adults is becoming more critical.

Bell, C., Fausset, C., Farmer, S., Nguyen, J., Harley, L., Fain, W. B. (2013).  Examining social media use among older adults.  Proceedings of the 24th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media (pp. 158-163).

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