Perceptions of Social through the Generations


It’s everywhere. Social media has become ubiquitous with our everyday routines, as much of a priority as going to work, eating, and sleeping. In fact, daily social media use has risen from 5% in 2005, to the recorded 69% in 2017. With social so entwined in all of our everyday lives, it’s interesting to take a step back and see how the perception of the beast that is social media is recognized and interpreted by different generations. We all use it, but does the way we use it, or how we perceive it, change based solely on our age? I’d say so.

Nowadays, you see as many children with smartphones in their hands as you do adults; in fact, on average, a child has a smartphone around their 10th birthday. With technology literally at the tip of their juvenile fingertips, comes the power of social media. Through their adolescent eyes, social media is very one-dimensional and superficial (que the infamous ‘finsta.’) They are concerned only about the social aspects of their channels, and exert their independence through them. Most likely, their social media accounts are one of the first things that are purely their own, without parental or other influences, and they can choose how to portray themselves as an individual. Their time spent on these platforms are primarily for social engagement, and don’t typically exceed that. Growing up in the social media age, they don’t know what life is like without notifications, filters, and retweets.

Slightly contrasting the adolescents, are the infamous Millennials and Gen Xer’s, who either grew up with some kind of social media, or were introduced to it relatively early on. Young adults are especially notorious for their alleged overuse of social; it’s true that their social media intentions largely focus around social uses to connect with friends, family, and entertainment, but their objectives run deeper as well. Their social usage focuses around educational purposes that allow them to engage with news content, and to stay up-to-date with timely events and news. These generations are more apt to make use of social in the workplace as well, either to find a job (goals: 500+ LinkedIn connections) or to be utilized in a career-focused manner. Even though the uses and tools may be more sophisticated and practical for the older crowd as opposed to how adolescents utilize social media, they are indeed one in the same in which social aspects typically takes precedence, and by the fact that their social worlds are so prominently interlaced in their everyday routines.

Even though younger adults were the earliest of the social media adopters, and continue to be the majority of this audience, usage by older generations has spiked, especially in recent years. I think it’s important to tip our hats to these individuals who are brave enough to venture into social media communities essentially blindfolded. They have no prior knowledge or anything to compare the various and ever-changing social platforms to, so to all you Baby Boomers and Silent Gens on Facebook, props to you.

Of these social utilizers, some have a negative connotation of the social world, which is most likely attributed to limited social knowledge and lack of familiarity. Others choose to avoid it altogether, and the select brave few try their hands at some platforms, most often Facebook. With their primary use for social being to stay connected with friends and family, our hearts go out to Grandma for her adorable, rudimentary blunders and confusions with the Facebook basics.

So, from a 10 year old with a shiny new iPhone in his hand, to the career-driven middle aged adult, to Aunt Betsy and her crazy Facebook antics, we all use it. We all love it. We may have varying perceptions and uses for it, but it’s an integral part of today’s society, and we should all be utilizing it to get the most out of the social media magic.

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