Six Reasons You Can’t Afford to Dismiss Social Networking

October 20, 2010

By Marilynne Rudick

Since launching my website, WebOver50, I’ve heard from a lot of Over 50 friends. Their responses generally fall into two groups:

  • Group 1: This blog is great. Thanks for helping me get up to speed on social networking and other web tools.
  • Group 2: I don’t care what you say. I don’t use social networks,, and I don’t want to.

It’s gratifying to hear from Group 1. But I’m somewhat taken aback by the vehement reactions of Group 2. Just mentioning Facebook produces the visceral reaction I normally associate with words like Nazi. Even more puzzling, this reaction comes not from luddites, but from computer literate friends who swear by e-mail and use a variety of web programs and tools at work.

My quarrel isn’t with the decision not to use social networks. That’s a legitimate response to concerns about privacy, lack of time, or a preference for spending time with real friends, not virtual one. My concern is with people who dismiss social networking out-of-hand without really knowing what it’s about.

So this post is for Group 2. And since readers like yourself are probably in the first group, please forward “Six Reasons You Can’t Afford to Dismiss Social Networking” to your Group 2 friends!

1. You’ll Become a Digital Dinosaur

New learning builds on existing learning. You’d like to go to med school, but you never took biology. You can go back and take the pre-med courses. But it’s a lot harder. Similarly, technology builds on existing technology. Web technology is a fast-moving train. If it leaves the station without you, chances are you’ll never get on board. Think about the people you know who never became computer literate or refused to use e-mail. They’re left in the dust as technology and innovation evolve.

2. You Won’t Be Competitive in the Workplace

It’s hard enough to keep your job or find a new job if you’re Over 50. If you’re not fluent in the latest web tools and technologies, you’re likely to be passed over for a job or promotion by a web savvy Under 30. Like it or not, social networking tools are becoming basic job skills. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are nearly universal marketing tools.

Increasingly, social networking is used in organizations to help work teams in different locations communicate, share information, and solve problems. Walmart uses social networking to encourage associates to build relationships. The CIA uses social networks to exchange intelligence. Geneticists use social networks to share their research. Entrepreneurs use social networks to find venture capital.

3. You’ll Lose Your Political and Social Clout

By virtue of their sheer numbers, Over 50s have had an inordinate amount of power. Over 50s decide elections and define social trends. But increasingly politicians in all shades of the political spectrum are using social networking tools to communicate with their constituents and get feedback about important issues. Corporations cull blogs and Twitter to gauge consumer sentiment about new products and their brands. Had a hotel room with no viewon a recent trip? Post a comment on a blog, or tweet about it. Chances are your complaint will get a response.

4. You’ll Fall Into the Digital Divide

In the past, music and hairstyles divided generations. Social networking looms as the 21st century’s great divide. If you want to understand and communicate with your children or grandchildren, you have to speak their language and understand their communication tools. The same goes for your Gen X and Y colleagues and bosses.

5. You’ll Miss out on a Great Way to Stay in Touch with Family and Friends

Like it or not, social interactions are happening online, and if you’re not a part of it you’ll miss out on the small and large events in your family and friends’ lives. Chances are your grandkids don’t call you every time they have an upcoming test or game. But if you are friends with them on Facebook, you’ll share their status updates about studying for a test or the outcome of a soccer tournament. You can then encourage, congratulate or console them.

You may know that friends are going on a trip around the world. But unless you read your friend’s blog, Twitter feed or check their Facebook page, you’ll miss their great pictures and travel anecdotes. Sure you can catch up with them when they get back or exchange e-mails, but you’ll miss out on the as-it’s-happening travelogue.

6. You’ll Get Old

Learning new things seems to be a key to staving off cognitive decline. What better way to stay mentally alert and socially with it than learning about and using social networking tools?

Learn More

Marilynne RudickAbout the Author: Marilynne Rudick writes about web tools and technologies in her WebOver50 blog.  She believes the web is wasted on the young, and her blog explains web apps– social networking, blogging, YouTube, and the treasure trove of new web tools—for people like herself: an over50 history major.

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  • Madeleine Kolb | Age Myths

    You make quite a persuasive case for using social media at 50-plus. I think that reason #3 alone, about losing social and political clout is reason enough to use every tool of communication out there. Especially these days, when people over 50 are often perceived as a huge, demographic load dragging down national health-care systems and the entire global economy.

    However, I have a quibble about #6 for two reasons. One is that being or getting old doesn’t mean inevitable cognitive decline and dementia. Admittedly, the risk goes up with age, but many people live long, fairly healthy lives without cognitive decline. The second reason is that the link in the post is to a study which is already out of date. More recent studies don’t seem to have concluded that doing crossword puzzles, for example, have much effect other than to make a person really good at doing them. I’d say that being mentally and socially active is important at any age.

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