Social media for seniors is an ever-growing trend. Once a senior has a computer, tablet, or smartphone, they're ready to join the millions of seniors who enjoy connecting with the world on social media. The best tools and tips for older adults and social media can help seniors use this valuable form of connection.
Social Media for Seniors
The most popular social media tools used by seniors are social media networks. Lisa Carpenter, founder of GrandmasBriefs.com and author of The First-Time Grandmother's Journal, says: "Like everything else, the 'best' social media site is relative and depends on what someone wants out of the social media experience. Instagram may be the easiest to navigate and get the hang of-simply share photos from your phone." She goes on to say, "On the other hand, Facebook provides more opportunities for interaction with friends and family."
A senior could get an Instagram app for their smartphone to share images and bits of information, but they might prefer the desktop version of Instagram because the images are huge and the scroll is slower. With Instagram on desktop, it's more like flipping the pages of a magazine.
Facebook is the most popular social media platform for seniors. Once you create an account, you can customize your page by choosing what you want to share and who you want to see it. Whether you want the current news, have a specific topic of interest, or just to keep up with friends and family, Facebook has something for almost all seniors. Facebook also facilitates private messaging, which allows you to send direct messages to friends and family.
Seniors will find YouTube a way to sharpen their mind and learn new skills. You'll only need to create an account that allows you to use many YouTube features such as like, subscribe, and watch later. Of course, if you'd like to go a step or two further, creating your own YouTube vlog channel will give you a way to tell your stories verbally, showcase your wisdom and talents, and engage an audience. You really don't need a fancy setup, you can create some great videos with your smartphone. As an example, Grandma Mary is one of the most popular vloggers on YouTube.
My Boomer Place
My Boomer Place caters to seniors. This social media site allows you to start your own page and connect with like-minded friends. It has many profile customization options and could be a great place to begin your social media experience.
Nextdoor is a social network that can connect seniors with their neighbors and to everything in their community. Here, you can chat with your neighbors, ask questions, share photos, post alerts, or create a poll. You also can buy and sell stuff, solicit services, get recommendations, and organize events. Nextdoor also provides a way to get local news updates and local police and government announcements.
Goodreads is a niche social networking site that focuses on books. Seniors can share book reviews, join virtual reading clubs, and socialize with other bookworms. The site also provides book recommendations based on your reading history.
If a senior is interested in connecting with long lost classmates, Classmates is a social media site that enables you to find and easily reconnect with your high school friends, see what they're doing, and find out about your high school reunion. You could even have access to your high school yearbook.
Get Help Setting up Your Social Media Accounts
Lisa suggests that the best advice for seniors wanting to set up a social media account is to find "a trusted younger relative-perhaps an older grandchild or adult child." She goes on to say, "There are so many 'experts' online with advice on what to do or answers on questions, and it can be overwhelming trying to wade through the FAQs and how-to. When flummoxed by a feature, a family member or friend may be able to easily answer or stand by to walk you through the process." Alternately, if no tech-savvy family member or friend is available, many local libraries and senior centers offer social media classes for seniors.
Tips for Protecting Your Privacy
Lisa's "No. 1 tip for seniors setting up a social media account is protecting their privacy and security. Beyond that, it's important to start small and slow. Connect with a few family members and friends and get to know the ropes by interacting with them. Having numerous folks in your feed can be overwhelming and inhibit using the network. As you get a feel for how things work and what you want from the connections, follow and friend a few more at a time. Social media should be enjoyable, not stressful." She also suggests that you "don't use your full name but do use a photograph for your profile right away. Again, and this can't be stressed enough, be sure all possible privacy controls are in place. Also, be sure to keep your password in a safe place and change it every few months to limit the likelihood of someone getting into your account."
Use Passwords That Are Strong and Unique
Key to computer and social networking safety is a strong and unique password.
- Make the password at least 15 characters including upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
- Connect Safely recommends using a pass phrase as your password with unrelated words such as FunTracks1984RoofYum.
- In your password, try substituting letters with similar numbers or symbols. For example, for the above you might make the password FunTr@ck$19&4R00f4um. In that case, you can use @ for a, & for 8 (they look similar), $ for s, and 0 (zero) for the letter o, and 4 for Y (because it looks similar). This makes it easy to remember for you, but difficult to crack. Don't rely on this strategy with single words (such as d!ng0 - dingo) or easy to guess phrases like your address (such as 1234M@in$treet). Instead, select longer phrases of unrelated words you'll remember but that aren't easy for others to work out.
- You can also allow your computer to assign and store a secure password if it has that capability. This creates very secure, hard to crack passwords and your computer remembers them so you don't have to.
- When possible, turn on "two factor authentication" (typically, this will be a setting under Security or Password tabs, or you will be prompted to use it during account set up). With two-factor authentication, you'll need to provide two types of evidence it's you. One is usually a password, but the other might be something such as clicking on a link in a text or email sent to you every time you log in.
Use Privacy Settings
Before posting to any service, it's good to get to know its privacy policies and settings. Almost all social media sites have settings that allow you to control who sees what you post. Always opt for tighter settings if you're unsure of what selections to make. Utilize the "help" pages on social media platforms to find answers to questions about changing your privacy settings and more.
Tips for Sharing Your Views
Remember that everything you share on social media is shared with the world and a reflection on you. Regarding sharing, Lisa says: "Seniors often like to share family photos and stories on social media. It's a good idea to first ask family members how they feel about you sharing such things, especially photos of grandchildren and personal stories. When it comes to sharing big news-good or bad-of a family member, consider waiting … if they don't post it, they may not want it shared." She goes on to say, "even using the privacy settings to limit your audience, whatever you post on your page can be copied and shared by others." Even if you delete the post, it never truly disappears. It's important to remember that if you don't want it online forever, don't post it.
You can disagree, but be respectful of other people. If someone is disrespectful to you or others, don't get into a war of words. Understand that when you express your opinion, there's a chance someone will respectfully disagree. At the same time, others will be disagreeable in the way they disagree. Lisa suggests that you "be kind and considerate to others, comment in a manner you wouldn't be ashamed for your mother to see, and refrain from contributing to the noise and nastiness that negate the positive benefits of connecting with others via social media."
Don't Believe Everything You Read
Keep in mind that not everything shared on social media is accurate and factual. Don't believe everything you read and never forward or share something if you're not sure it's true. This is spreading false information. If a post is questionable, do your research or use a fact checking website to determine its validity.
Share and Click Carefully
Senior social media users can safely share good news, vacation photos, and other updates on their networks every day. However, an important social media tip for seniors is to be careful of what you share and click on. Hackers prey on social media. A good rule of thumb: If it looks suspicious, don't click on or share it. Lisa suggests that you "scrutinize pretty much everything that appears in your feed, even if it's a 'news' article shared by someone you know and trust. Ensure news sources are reputable organizations and avoid sharing memes, pictures, and videos from questionable sources. Before sharing something, click on the original source and verify their feed is something you want to be associated with or see more of in your feed. Reason being that once you share and click and like something, that is what you'll see more of in your feed … especially when it comes to news."
Report abuse from anyone, including friends, family, and caregivers. Don't let anyone cyberbully you. If you get messages on social media that are disturbing in any way, don't respond. Instead, reach out for help and report the behavior to the site or service. All major social media companies have employees that respond to abuse complaints.
Be selective when choosing social network friends. Devious individuals often create fake profiles, so it's advisable not to become friends with strangers. Lisa suggests that you "never accept friend request from folks you don't know in real life" Social media can be an amazingly enjoyable experience when you're connecting with people you know and trust, but strangers can become a hassle and even worse.
Social Media Etiquette Tips
Some things you should think twice about before you share your written words on social networks.
- Consider that voice inflections and body language can't be communicated through written social media posts. Be aware that snarky or sarcastic comments can come off as mean.
- Get personal and let people get to know you, but remember, there is such a thing as too much information.
- There is also such a thing as too much honesty. So, keep this old saying in mind, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
- People tend to shrug off a bit of verbal profanity. Still, it's different in writing, so don't use profanity or you could find your social media friends slipping away.
- Wait until you return to post and share your adventures. Lisa suggests that you never "reveal online when your home is empty." Additionally, you should not reveal where you are by posting photos in real-time.
- Social media is great for sharing your small challenges and asking for help. But, it's not the place to share any significant challenge you're currently going through. Wait until you've overcome the challenge before sharing your experience with others.
A Social Media Fact of Life
Almost all social media sites can be accessed for free. Still, they have to make money to stay in business. When you use social media platforms, the company knows who you are and finds out a lot about you. They'll know things like your email address, your age, and your general location. Additionally, as you use the platform, they'll find out even more about you, such as your likes and opinions. The site then sells all this information to data or advertising companies that will then target you. Other websites also provide income to social media platforms, so don't get upset when you eerily see things you've been shopping for online showing up on your social media page. If you click on these ads, the social media companies earn more money. Being aware of how social media makes money is important so you can look out for paid ads or promoted posts and activity on your social media pages.
Social Media and Seniors
Although there are advantages and disadvantages of social networking, social media can stave off loneliness by enabling seniors to become actively involved with others and stay in touch with and up to date with friends and family members near and far. However, setting up and using a social media account can be tricky for a tec-illiterate senior. So, keep these tips in mind as you set up and manage your social media activity.