Social Media Across Generations

My eighty-something-year-old grandmother is probably on Facebook more than I am. So for those of you that think of social media as something “those darn kids” are into, think again.


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As of January 2014 Pew Research Center found that 3 out of 4 people online use social media, and 52% of online adults use two or more social media sites.

Broken down by age group, a significant portion of every age group that’s online is also on social media:

  • 89% of people 18-29 online
  • 82% of people 30-49 online
  • 65% of people 50-64 online
  • 49% of people 65+ online

Facebook has a largely older audience (56% of online adults 65+), while Instagram and Twitter have a younger crop of users. LinkedIn is more popular among high-income households, older audiences and those with college degrees.

So what does that mean for journalists—especially recent grads? Your social media audience isn’t just your peer group. The rule “only post what you’d be ok with your grandmother seeing” is more relevant than ever. Not only is the portion of older adults on social media consistently increasing, but also teens are getting on social media at younger and younger ages. You can keep these demographics in mind when sharing content; keep Twitter and Instagram posts more fun and visual, while Facebook posts should be geared towards a wider audience demographic, and LinkedIn should remain professional and more suitable for things you’d peg as interesting to a boss or professor.

One thing to keep in mind is how fast these statistics are changing; as generations who are familiar with social media grow older, the full spectrum of online adults will be on most social media sites.

Now go say hi to your grandma on Facebook, and then double check you haven’t shared anything you don’t want her to see.


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