Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Is Grandma addicted to Facebook?
by Sandra Parshall
Somebody on the Murder Must Advertise e-mail loop for writers recently wondered if it’s possible to reach older readers – who buy a lot of fiction – on the internet. “Do people over 50 use social networking?”
The rest of us found the question amusing, because virtually everyone who actively participates on that list is over 50 (or over 60 or 70 or, in at least one case, 80), and we’re all pretty much addicted to social networking.
We’re mystery writers, though. Maybe we’re more connected to the cyber world because we do research online, look for advice from other writers online, and reach out to readers through social networking. Are we representative of older adults in our internet use?
As it turns out, we’re beginning to look typical for our age group, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
This year, for the first time, more than half – 53% – of U.S. residents over 65 are using the internet or e-mail. In the 50-64 age group, the number is higher: 77%. About 70% of the internet users over 65 go online every day, and 76% of those between 50 and 64.
They do it in style, too. “It is also now the case,” the Pew report states, “that once seniors start using the internet, they most often have access to high-speed connections at home.”
In the overall adult population, including everybody over 18, 82% say they use the internet or e-mail at least occasionally, and 67% do so every day. Ownership of computers, particularly laptops, by older people has been growing rapidly over the past few years.
Furthermore, 70% of all adults over 65 own cell phones, and 56% of those over 76 carry them. However, this age group is less likely to go for expensive, multi-tasking smartphones, with only one person in ten owning one. As retro as it may sound, older Americans want nothing more than a device that will let them make and receive calls.
But what about social networking, which many writers see as the avenue to readers? As of February 2012, the Pew report says, 50% of people aged 50-64 and 34% of those aged 65 and older use social networking sites. Those numbers represent a significant and rapid increase. While younger people are still the most likely to use social networking, the report states, “from April 2009 to May 2011, social networking site use among internet users 65 and older grew 150%.”
The hitch, as far as writers are concerned, is that most adults over 50 say they use social networking primarily to stay in touch with family. Those under 50 are more likely to be accumulating thousands of Facebook “friends” and chatting up strangers.
So does social networking bring writers and readers together? What do you think? If you’re a writer, have you sold any books because you use Facebook, Twitter, etc? (I know I have.) Have you bought any books because you “met” the authors online? (Again, I have.)