Boomer flu on social networks: Fear the pandemic

FacebookIt’s out there and there’s no stopping it. I mean old people taking over Facebook and Twitter:

Still, there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence that sharing the online world can be a source of intergenerational strife. Take Will Smith (no, not the actor), for example. When this 33-year-old tech professional received a Facebook friend request from his father in March, he was floored. Not because he didn’t want to connect with his dad, but because doing so on the same network that he shared with so many peers and colleagues raised a host of complex concerns.

“My father, who I dearly love, has a tendency to forward e-mails that are off pretty off-color,” says Smith. “It’s probably nothing that would get me fired, but stuff that could earn me a trip to HR, if I ever opened them [at work]. My concern was that he would post that type of message on my Wall or in another public venue on Facebook without realizing it was a public venue. Since everyone from my immediate supervisor to the president of my company is in my friend list, there’s potential for bad things to happen. I don’t think anything actually would, but there was strong potential for embarrassment.”

To reduce the likelihood of a career-damaging dust-up, Smith sent his dad an e-mail in which he laid out what he considered reasonable limits for their online father-son bonding. Off-limits: “Politics, sex, jokes, things you find funny but offend me, comments about family members, any combination of the aforementioned items, and pretty much every e-mail you’ve ever sent me.”

Ultimately, Smith’s worst-case scenario never came to pass and—perhaps because that e-mail—his father never logged back into Facebook. But according to data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, people of the same age as Smith’s father are logging onto Facebook in droves, and Baby Boomers are now the fastest growing population on the social network.

Ultimately, disaster was averted in this case. But it’ll only be a matter of time before mom or dad is tweaking you with a “Yoo hoo, honey!” for all your friends to see.

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