Generational Differences in Use of Social Media

Millennial social media post exampleSocial media has been changing how many people communicate, including the way that different generations communicate online. Although members of a family might speak a shared language, they‘re likely to speak differently online – so differently that three identical posts by three family members of different ages could appear to say three different things.

For instance, maybe a teenager has chuckled when grandpa posted something on the teenager’s wall that he meant to post on his own wall. Or maybe an older relative has struggled to decipher the emoji use of a young niece or why she uses “100” so much.

Could this portend a rising demand for skilled multilingual translators of generational speech? Or higher salaries for the savvy who can fluently communicate both grammatically and in ungrammatical social media-ese? Or a return to The Stone Age, where tonal grunts worked just fine? Or simply today’s version of yesterday’s “slang”?

Here are some fanciful general perceptions:

Characteristics of ages 18-29 (comprised primarily of Millennials):

Millennial social media post exampleThis generation could be considered the “professionals” of social media, and many of them indeed work as social media managers. When someone in this age range writes online, expect to see lots of emojis – images such as a “happy face” used to depict emotions; acronyms such as “LOL” for “laugh out loud”; words that are minimized or abbreviated in new ways, such as the Internet-style “plz” instead of “pls” for “please”; words that are not spelled according to the dictionary; and hashtags (the # sign) – the combo rallying cry and online destination address where people hash over the hot news or gossip of the moment.

Characteristics of ages 30-64 (comprised primarily of Generation X and Baby Boomers):

Gen X and Baby Boomer social media post exampleThey didn’t grow up with social media but are relatively comfortable with it. They likely learned from their children how to use social media because they were eager to exchange emails with their grandkids and to view the latest family photos online. Someone in this age group will probably write in complete sentences, avoid using emojis, and make small missteps such as hitting “Send” before being ready to send. Nevertheless, like delighted tourists in a strange land, they’ll zip around trying new things and adhering to the centuries-old truth that trying is more important than fluency.

Characteristics of ages 65+ (comprised of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation):

Social media post example for 65 years old plusSocial media may or may not interest this wide-ranging age group. Some may take to it like a duck to water. Some may find it a waste of time or not give a hoot about who had what for dinner. Others may prefer to steer clear of potential danger. Still others valiantly attempt to conquer it, but end up typing IN ALL CAPS (which in “online-ese” often indicates anger). Of the 74 percent of Internet adult users who use social networking sites, 49 percent are age 65-plus, according to the January 2014 Internet Project research by the Pew Research Center.

How many social media users are in your family and how often do they use it? Fill us in on the Gerber Life Facebook page.

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