Dan Barash Online

Are Baby Boomers Killing Facebook and Twitter?
June 10, 2009, 5:52 pm
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By Robert Strohmeyer, PC World

It may seem like Facebook and Twitter widen the gaps between boomers, Gen X-ers and members of Generation Y, but online social networks may bring us all closer.

Typical Baby Boomers? Can't we all just be Facebook friends, man? Baby Boomers in their colorful native garb.

The story is as old as the Web: A social network born among 20-something college kids and young wired professionals sprouts up, apparently out of nowhere, and grows into a cultural phenomenon. Eventually, it reaches critical mass and explodes, its mushroom cloud drawing the attention of millions of baby boomers, leading to a huge influx of new users, which in turn triggers complaints from the youngsters who started it all. The invasion of the boomers spurs some members of younger generations to flee the carnage (and the fallout) in search of fresher territory.

We’ve seen this scenario play out on MySpace and Facebook, and now it is starting to happen on Twitter. When the Baby Boomers — traditionally defined as anyone born in the United States between 1946 and 1964 — arrive, they tend to do so en masse. And when they set up camp, they invariably change the dynamic of the social network itself. Whether due to their distinctive social habits or the sheer vastness of their demographic, a mass migration of 50-and-over folk brings in its train everything from increased political activity to a proliferation of spam.
That boomers dramatically alter the social networks they adopt should come as no surprise, according to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a think tank that studies Americans’ online habits. “Boomers are the mainstream of the country now,” Rainie says. “When you attract a mainstream audience, you’re going to attract a lot more commercial interests. Boomers validate that this is a big market, and that this is a place where commercial interests can make money.”

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