Border Mail Column, Wednesday 16 February 2011
It’s easy to dismiss or even denigrate things we don’t understand and social networking it seems is an easy target being blamed for many of our current social and educational ills.
Facebook, Twitter, emailing and texting are convenient fall guys for out of control parties; bad spelling, punctuation and grammar; over use of emoticons – those cute little smiley faces, hearts etc – in business communication and the disengagement of our young people.
Generalisations abound about who uses social networking: it’s just for the younger generation; those who have too much time on their hands or people who can’t engage in the real world.
‘If I want to talk to my friends, I’ll do it in person,’ is an oft repeated mantra against Facebook, while Tweeting ‘Isn’t that what birds do?’ infers that little thought goes into the composition of a tweet.
But the reality is that it isn’t just the younger generation who are using these social networks: Facebookers and Tweeters represent a very broad cross section of the community in Australia and globally.
Looking at a number of statistical sources the trends regarding Facebook and Twitter use by people over 55 are consistent: far from being disengaged and not understanding social networking, this group is increasing its use of it particularly to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren with one source reporting a one hundred and fifty percent growth in use by women over 55 over a one year period.
The growth in Twitter use isn’t quite so dramatic, but the way it is used among those considered to be the mature citizens of our population is interesting.
Contrary to the views of some, time in the Twitterverse can be a way to connect to like-minded people or those in a similar industry giving quick access to articles, blogs and other writings of value to you professionally and personally.
It’s not just about following celebrities, those who want to tell you everyday what they have had for breakfast or frittering away your time.
I’m close enough in age to 55 to have an understanding of the demographic, so will relate my experience with social networking.
I’ve had a Twitter account for a few months now and have to say that it’s proven to be a great way to connect to those in my communities of interest including writing and publishing; it’s also been a great way to direct readers to my blog which is linked to my Twitter account.
When I post this column to the blog today a tweet will appear with a link to this particular opinion piece, and once there readers can also read some of my fiction, click on to some of my favourite writers and bloggers, find out more about my marketing and public relations business, or if they don’t find it of interest to them simply close the site.
This may sound all very businesslike and in part it is, but Twitter is more than business for me.
In a two month break, this community has on some days been a lifeline keeping me connected to my life as a writer, communicator and teacher.
It has been of great value to me giving me access to information I might not otherwise be aware of and in a very accessible way.
I may not use all of the information I access, but neither do I consciously use everything I read in books, magazines and other publications.
Far from being a waste of time, for me Facebook and Twitter are two doorways to the wonders of my many worlds.