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After Work: The Wrinkling Of Facebook

…Oh, the pictures they post. They portray themselves as sitting in golf carts, steering sailboats and lounging in the back of sport fishing boats. Recreational vehicles are big with this crowd. So are pictures of vacations. The entire family posed with the Great Wall of China seems to be a favorite…

Dona Gibbs points out that an increasing number of older folk now post their details on Facebook.

For more of Dona’s revelatory columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/after_work/

Recently, the New York Times reported that Facebook has 150 million members. The article commented that the social networking phenomenon had been “clearly built on the back of oversharing.”

As you probably already know Facebook was originally developed for the college crowd. Later, as teens and preteens signed on and posted, there was lots of hand wringing over stalkers of the naïve and innocent. And there was lots of clucking over the provocative pictures of little Lolitas lolling around with lollipops and young dudes stripped to their waists.

There was also news of cruel tricks played on the young and vulnerable. Several of the social networking sites were painted as pits into which the innocent unwary could fall with disastrous results.

So imagine my surprise when I came across a research study that showed the latest trends in Facebook use. It’s not the young and nubile at all. It’s the post-grads and young professionals.

iStrategy Labs, a research organization, has been tracking the demographics of Facebook over the past few years. The latest study shows that the biggest jump in membership is the 35-54 age group. Last year it grew over 194 percent with over 276,000 new members during the past six months.

And here’s the truly surprising part. The second biggest segment of growth is in the over 55 set. That segment of the demographic, those people who’ve gotten some well-earned grey hairs and wrinkles, occupy a huge slice of the pie chart.

Oh, the pictures they post. They portray themselves as sitting in golf carts, steering sailboats and lounging in the back of sport fishing boats. Recreational vehicles are big with this crowd. So are pictures of vacations. The entire family posed with the Great Wall of China seems to be a favorite.

Facebook is a tool that many people in the older age group seem to use like a virtual college reunion. The great part is that it’s painless. You don’t have to run through your mental card file to attach a name to an aging face.

You don’t have to fib and exclaim, “Why you haven’t changed a bit.” You don’t have to scratch your head in puzzlement when someone claps you on the back and shouts in your ear, “Remember, that time in Harry’s ? When Bill put lines of sugar down the table to tip the coked up waiter? Heh, heh.”

You don’t have to mumble in confusion, “That Bill was always a kidder.” Who was Bill anyway? And what was I doing in Harry’s?

Nope, on Facebook you have plenty of information to prompt you. There are profiles that inform you about people’s ages, marital status, political and religious leanings and interests.

iStrategy revels numbers on reported interests in drugs, sex and rock’n’ roll (all music). Not surprisingly, given the demographic shift, almost 4 million members list music as an interest. Drugs and sex lag way, way behind.

I must confess I have a Facebook membership. I’d like to say I signed up in the interest of doing this article.

Truth is, I don’t know why I signed up . It was over a year ago.

Then I received an email via Facebook. A woman inquired if I were her long ago college friend. “Yes,” I answered.

She then “friended” me. And I “friended” her back. Using a noun as a verb is one of those cutesy little social networking terms. When the minutiae of hearing about some chance aquitance's daily doing becomes tiresome, you can request less information or “defriend” the pest. This is also known as hitting the delete key. A heartless move.

That little virtual visit was addictive. I searched for other college friends and caught up on their day-to-day lives.

Like the Times reporter commented, it is oversharing. Facebook encourages it. There’s a prompt to let your friends know what you’re up to.

My friends now know when I was packing for a trip and when I bought Christmas wrap. Riveting, huh?

In turn, I found out when an old friend bought a Kindle and when another trimmed his hedges. Equally, enlightening.

The daughter of a good friend has “friended” me. Aha, now I can peek into the lives of a younger crowd. She lives in Brooklyn and is very, very attractive. She’s also wickedly funny. She posts a lot of photos of very, very attractive people having a fabulous time in fabulously hip places. She has close to 150 Facebook friends. I have, umm, close to fourteen. Well, thirteen, at last count.

If the older folks continue to swarm to Facebook and fritter away their dotage seeing what old so-and-so is up to, will the younger crowd flee?

When they post, do they really want Mom and Dad, who have also become members, to read about last night’s date?

Ever-Enthusiastic Husband mused the other day, “ I have a nice photo of me that’s on my firm’s site. I could use it for my Facebook page.”

“Are you going to join?” I gasped.

“You seem to get a lot of fun out of it,” he replied. “We’ll sign me up on a rainy day.”

“But it’s the most inane thing I do,” I sputtered.

And it truly is. And I’m not alone.

The report also showed that 186 minutes on average are spent per visitor in a month.

That’s a lot of time spent learning a lot about nothing.


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