We all grow old. Some people do it with a lot of grace, and others try to fight it with products and procedures. But, it’s a fact of life that you’re aging every day. What’s interesting about aging is that even though it happens to everyone, there are so many different experiences you can have that someone else won’t.
There’s no question that we’re living in a society enamored with social media. Between likes, shares, and comments, it can feel hard to keep up with such a social society, especially as things move at such a rapid pace.
But, social media impacts everyone. From the current generation that never knew life without iPhones, to Millennials who were there at the start, and even the Baby Boomers, social media is undoubtedly a part of your life in some way.
With that in mind, let’s look at how this social media era impacts our aging generations differently, and how you can use it effectively, no matter how “old” it makes you feel.
The First Social Media Generation
Facebook officially launched in 2004. The first users were all college students. In fact, you needed a collegiate email address to sign up for an account. Obviously, that quickly changed as the platform now has nearly 3 billion active users. Twitter wasn’t far behind, officially launching in 2006, with Instagram following in 2010.
Even before these major platforms, however, there were things like AOL Instant Messenger, chat rooms, and MySpace – the earliest ways for people to connect and “get social” online.
What do they all have in common?
Most of them launched within a few years of each other, impacting the Millennial generation the most. For a time, many social media platforms felt exclusive to Millennials. They are, for all intents and purposes, the first real social media generation.
Now, however, there are countless tropes about Millennials feeling “old” because of social media. Platforms like Snapchat and TikTok have come out more recently and are largely used by teenagers and even pre-teens. Those in their 20s and 30s are more interested in things like engaging careers, long-term relationships, and continuing education than the next 30-second viral video. Somewhere along the line, this generation started focusing on social media platforms like LinkedIn, where their goals to connect include:
- Using a professional photo
- Consistent updates
- Utilizing keywords
- Requesting recommendations
It’s the fear of the next generation assuming Millennials are old that actually causes so many tropes and stereotypes. Social media moves so quickly, and it’s hard to say what the next big platform will be, but it’s easy to see that Millennials are more content with what they know and using platforms that will help them in the real world, rather than giving in to new social media trends.
Generation Z and Social Media Changes
Gen Z is the current reigning champ of all things social media. They’re young, they’re on top of the latest trends, and they’re usually the first to know when a new platform will be successful or not. Generation Z uses social media differently than any other “aging” generation, with YouTube and Snapchat topping the list of popular apps, and Facebook waning in popularity.
Because this generation is so young, it can be hard to think about how they might be aging in a social media era. But, consider the fact that 42% of Gen Z says social media affects their self-esteem. That’s a higher percentage than Millennials and Baby Boomers. While we might not be seeing the lasting effects on how social media impacts this generation yet, it will be interesting to see what the aging process looks like for them, and how it differs from generations past.
Baby Boomers and the Impact of Social Media
The Baby Boomer generation was introduced to social media later in life. Studies have shown that out of the current living generations, social media means the least to “boomers”. This generation is more focused on real-world interactions, living a quality life, and taking care of their overall wellbeing. Most are more worried about figuring out the complexities of Medicare and insurance than Instagram.
Social media has its pros and cons when it comes to how it affects aging. Some of the positives for seniors include:
- An open platform to discuss health issues
- A way to stay connected to others and combat isolation
- It can lead to new business ventures
- It can be an educational platform
Some social media choices can harm older generations like Baby Boomers. It can foster unrealistic expectations of health and spread negativity very quickly. It’s great to catch up with family and friends, but there is no denying that not everything people post is positive.
We’re now living in a world where every generation from this point on will know what social media is. How it affects each generation as it ages remains to be seen, but as social trends change, the impact of social media platforms will continue to adapt and mold everything from children to seniors as a factor in the aging process.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.