(part 1 of 2)

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photo by Cipi*VT*, flickr artist<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">photo by Cipi*VT*, flickr artist</figcaption></figure>

my twitter stream in the last 2 weeks or so has been mentioning the change in times for online social networking. more than a few users i follow have pointed out some recent news that popular services of twitter and facebook are becoming very unpopular with younger folks, and more of the worlds’ older generations are starting to join the fold. and while many people seemed to share the same disbelief (“but that makes no sense!”), it actually seems to be perfectly logical to me.

the reason is that there’s a difference between being cool and being ice cold.

but before i get there, let’s talk about the reasons there are more older folks joining facebook and carving out their own space in the twitterverse.

reason #1: money

no, really! money makes a huge difference. it seems strange since both facebook and twitter are free services; simple economics would say that they both have the same barrier to entry in the marketplace: “free.” young people (high schoolers, college students) can surely afford free, so there’s a non-issue here, right?


having money means you have cool toys. having cool toys like iphones and blackberries means you’re always connected. sure there are ways to link your normal cell phone to facebook and twitter via txt msg — but setting those features up is: (a) unknown to many, (b) difficult to do for many of those who know about it, (c) just a tad redundant. the majority of users, i surmise, don’t realize they can update their facebook status, or even upload a picture from a standard mobile phone let alone add a “note” to their facebook as well. for those who do know about it, many folks see themselves as not being a ‘tech’ person and therefore find it difficult to follow the process of linking their phone to the service. then again, why link at all? if none of your friends have smart phones to check the service, it’s still difficult to connect with them, so why not just send your friends a txt msg directly instead?

iphones and blackberries keep us connected at all times. it’s as simple as downloading an app, inputting your username and password once, and tweeting away. i can see what you post and you can see what i post, all in near real time.

it also makes the service more robust. instead of just sending a txt msg update, i can send links to facebook and twitter. i can post a new article i found on an awesome blog. i can upload links to multimedia files my friends and followers can listen to. all of these things are not possible with a standard mobile phone, but they all enhance the experience.

bottom line: it’s just more fun when you have a smartphone… and they cost money.

reason #2: the viral effect

facebook started in 2004. i, having been enrolled in the right university at the right time, was able to join the service just as it was standing up. now, 5 years later, i’m all grown up — wearing suits and ties, carrying a laptop to and from work every day — doing the whole “real world” thing (not that real world). there are also literally hundreds of thousands who are just like me who have entered the professional world too. dare i say that in the time since facebook started, millions of infectious agents have been unleashed into offices and cubicles the world over.

using facebook on an every day occasion (before many corporations started banning access to it) meant that even more millions of people who previously had no exposure to the facebook phenomenon began to see what it was really like. then it started to grow. being the next cool thing at that point, demand was so high that facebook opened their service up to — at first — high schoolers and then the entire digital world. now chris in accounting who had graduated 5 years before facebook came about jumped on and started looking for his old college buddies. kathryn connected with girlfriends she hadn’t seen since high school. anyone and everyone could get on facebook now… and they did.

reason #3: the full-time job

twitter and facebook and the like have been branded as “time wasters” (though i whole-heartedly disagree), and what better place to waste time than at your boring, mundane, repetitive, cubicle, office space kind of world you live in from 8 to 6 every day? you’re already in front of a computer screen the whole time, right? so people have taken to twitter — making sure they tell us all just how much they hate work.

sidebar: i don’t hate my job. in fact, i love it. i just find it interesting from a sociological perspective that so many people don’t, and would complain about it in digital space rather than take steps to change their current situation.

so you have this perfect storm which has arisen to captivate the older (non-teen, non-student) generations. they’re people who have money, who have either ‘grown up’ with social networks or have been otherwise influenced, and who have plenty of time in the day.

and they’ve taken to the interwebs in record numbers.

check back again soon for part 2 of this post!</p>

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