Why do so many baby boomers dismiss social media?

I was born in 1962, which puts me at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, defined as those who came into the world between 1946 and 1964.

My adoption of social media also puts me at the far edge of my generation for another reason: I’m a fan of social media.

That’s not necessarily the case with my contemporaries. The common refrain I hear when I talk about social media: “I don’t do Facebook.” It’s said with the same disdain they have for illicit narcotics — “I don’t do drugs.”

Why does this trailblazing generation feel so antagonistic toward social media? Why do so many tech-savvy Boomers prefer not to share with their friends online? Why do they dislike a medium so popular with younger people?

Why Facebook

I find social media very useful. I also was a relatively early adopter. Social media has become a routine part of my business and personal life, just like using email to communicate, Uber for a ride, or OpenTable for dinner reservations.

Some of my compatriots, however, are borderline haters when it comes to social media. One friend characterized Facebook like this: “It’s like going to my high school reunion every day — except worse. People only tell you about the happy stuff. Everyone’s life seems to be wonderful and better than mine, even if that’s not really the case.”

True, there are alot of happy campers on Facebook, but I really think people misunderstand the utility of this social network.

In fact, Facebook is simply a new way to share. It’s not a substitute for face-to-face conversations, but it helps keep you engaged with people you know and like. It allows you to respond to the enjoyable moments that are important to your friends. Why not support them and partake in their joy, trivial or not?

Facebook is also good for saying a quick hello to people you might not otherwise see. When you like a Facebook post, you let someone know you’re thinking about them. No more, no less. And, when you see them next time, you’ll know some of the details about what they’ve been doing.

The other misunderstanding about social media is that it’s a way to spy on your kids. Assuming your kids actually friend you and use their real names, Facebook can be a non-invasive way to understand what your kids are thinking and doing. We need to be careful that we don’t violate their space.

Twittersphere

Twitter is even more misunderstood than Facebook. Because it’s still the new kid on the block, most Baby Boomers have yet to see its value. However, Twitter is evolving into something very interesting: A customizable news feed. On Twitter, you can read the top stories of every newspaper and magazine on the planet.

To be sure, I still read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Economist and other print publications because I want to see their story placement. That’s just as important as the news itself. Still, Twitter is a news junkie’s dream. It’s easy to follow 10, 20 or 100 publications on Twitter. That wasn’t possible five years ago.

In addition to news organizations, Twitter allows you to follow anyone. That includes your favorite thought leaders, pop culture or social causes — everyone from the President, Warren Buffett, Josh Brown, Lady Gaga, the Doobie Brothers, NASA or even the National Zoo’s Panda cam.

Unlike Facebook, you can follow anybody you want; you don’t need their permission. The benefit is that you get a window into different worlds and can learn what these folks are reading and thinking. Five years ago, that wasn’t possible, either.

The other aspect I like about Twitter is that you’re limited to 140 characters. Twitter forces you to get right to the point — short and sweet. In a society rife with ADD, there is something to be said for that.

Old School Social Media

Before social media, information gathering was more time-consuming. You couldn’t customize your news feed, nor consume information wherever and whenever you wanted. You had to wait for the publication to arrive at the newsstand, office or home.

When wealth advisors in the pre-social media era were looking for prospects, they asked someone to slip them the membership roster for their country club. Or they read the local papers and magazines looking for the occasional person who hit it big.

Traditional media — other than the tabloids — is also more sterile than social media. Personal stories shared via social media are often more authentic and intimate than stories appearing in traditional media. That’s refreshing. People express their vulnerability today via social media, and that’s helpful. When we share our hopes and fears, we educate and inspire others facing similar circumstances.

* * *

Like any new technology — or drug — social media can be addictive and a time suck. However, used correctly, social media is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It can actually enhance your business and personal relationships.

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