Online communities are increasingly welcoming senior users and enthusiasts have argued that social networking alleviates social isolation. Certainly, keeping in touch with family members, especially distant ones, is a powerful motivator, but it’s also nice to share pictures and jokes with friends.
A quarter of Facebook and LinkedIn users are over 50. The former is principally ‘social’ and the latter is more ‘networking’ for professionals. However, both can be used in whatever way you like, and both are a good starting point if you are looking to track down old friends or colleagues.
Although it is a bit tiresome to go to ‘settings’ and select ‘privacy’, it is worth thinking about what you are sharing with the many millions who could view your data – including con artists. On Facebook you can limit the visibility of your pictures and postings to ‘Friends’, ‘Friends of friends’ or ‘Everyone’. Likewise, it is possible to switch off updates from certain people. There may be photos you don’t want to see!
Other social networking platforms include Google Plus, Olderiswiser and MySpace. Then there are ‘enthusiast’ sites, such as ravelry.com for knitters, Scrabbleplayers.org, Anglers, and so on. Every interest is catered to, including health. There are many dedicated sites where those with medical conditions can compare symptoms, treatment and offer support.
Online politeness, or ‘netiquette’, is important if one is to keep those new friends! Without eye contact and body language it’s easy to misinterpret what is said, and be offensive/take offense mistakenly.
Here are some guidelines:
- Mind your p’s and q’s: be as polite as you would be in real life – introduce yourself with your name and avoid foul language.
- Be discrete – do not pass on messages unless you have the sender’s express permission.
- Do not get hijacked by trolls (online anger hobbyists); Agree to differ and walk away.
- Be careful: don’t give out any information that might be useful to identity thieves.