Are you thinking about introducing your 70 year old grandmother, mother, or friend to Facebook? Do you think you’ll be successful? According to graduate student Michael Braun’s (BA ’06, MA ’11) research on older adult’s use of social networking sites, three factors will help predict your success rate. His findings suggest that older adults are more likely to use a social networking site if they already use the Internet, if they view them as useful, and if they believe the sites are trustworthy. “Older adults,” Braun adds, “need to find value in social networking websites before they can be convinced to use them. Encouragement from friends and family is not enough, by itself, to predict intention to use social networking websites. Older adults must also be convinced that social networking websites can be trusted with personal data.” In other words, nagging an older friend or relative is not as persuasive as we might think.
But convincing your 70 year old grandmother Facebook is trustworthy isn’t always the right solution either. Braun says, no matter what your age, you should take advantage of new media technologies only if they enhance your relationship. He cautions, if using a computer to communicate with a friend or family member “isn’t adding anything to your relationship, or if it means a lot of problems making the technology work like you want it to, then there is no reason to adopt something new.” Heeding his own advice, Braun closed his Facebook account a year ago. For him, face-to-face contact, the telephone, and e-mail are his preferred ways of communicating with people.
Braun plans to continue studying technology and aging. He is interested in learning more about the role technology plays in maintaining relationships between generations, especially between grandparents and grandchildren. Through his research, he will explore how the use of different technologies for communication enriches or hinders these relationships.