Imagine staying in touch with your friends, grandchildren, old classmates and new acquaintances every day. Social networks – internet sites that help you connect with others – let you do just that.
Not Just for Kids
Social networking sites like AARP.org, Facebook and Twitter are garnering attention from people of all ages, with older adults representing the fastest growing segment of new users.
A recent Pew Internet & American Life survey found that the number of adults on social networks more than quadrupled, from 8 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2008.
AARP Online: Pets, Parents, Politics
AARP’s online community launched in early 2008, and quickly became a destination for members looking to connect, get advice and express themselves.
Geared specifically to the 50+ population, the site has 585,000 registered users, and nearly 2,400 groups on topics ranging from pet ownership to caregiving to public policy.
Bay State members can also connect online with AARP Massachusetts, to learn about current events, important breaking news, and volunteer opportunities.
The Phenomenon of Facebook
The largest of the bunch, Facebook, has a network of over 200 million active members. Started in 2003 for Harvard University students, the site expanded first to other colleges, then to high schools, and finally to people of all ages. Facebook estimates that almost 4 million users are between the ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. alone.
Facebook users can share photos, videos, links, and thoughts with their friends, by posting this information on their profile page. The site also offers a wide variety of games, quizzes and applications, and enables users to join groups, causes, book clubs, and much more.
All Aflutter Over Twitter
With 32 million participants (and growing), Twitter is the site of the moment. Twitter asks a simple question: “What are you doing?”, and gives users 140 characters of space to answer. The site is populated with everyone from celebrities in Hollywood to protesters in Iran, and has recently become a way to get breaking news. Users can view “tweets” by subject, which are also listed in order of popularity, giving an up-to-the-minute view of thoughts, news, and opinions on current events.
For most, social networking sites are a way to have fun and connect with friends and family. Many older adults want to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren, and social networking sites are a great place for family members to post and share pictures.
For some, these sites are professional networking tools. According toAARP The Magazine, connecting professionally is especially important to today’s adults who may have lost their jobs or are worried about job security in this current economic climate. Sites like LinkedIn are specifically offered to professionals, helping to keep the “social” element out of business networking, often a blurrier line on Facebook and Twitter.
How do I get started?
To sign up, begin at the “Register” button on the AARP.org home page, and complete the required fields. Build your personal profile by adding “About Me” details, such as where you live and your hobbies and interests. Add photos, videos and journals you’d like to share, and then invite your friends and family to join you on AARP.org.
Once you have your profile information, be sure to connect with AARP Massachusetts by clicking on the “Join This Group” button beneath the photo of Fenway’s mascot Wally.
As with AARP.org, set up a profile on Facebook by adding both contact information and personal details about your life. Facebook uses this information to suggest connections for you, so the more you include could help you reconnect with your best friend from elementary school, or friends from your hometown.
Getting started with Twitter is very easy – you need only provide your name, email, and a user name. Once you sign up, you can use the search function to find topics of interest or friends already on the site.
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