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.)


LD Masterson said...

I would guess that many seniors start out on Facebook because that's where their kids are posting pictures of the Grandkids. Some never go beyond that. For others, it becomes the door to a whole new world.

Sandra Parshall said...

I think you're right, LD. Actually, I *know* you're right. Social networking is seductive to all age groups. You don't have to be 15 to enjoy it.

Norma Huss said...

I've used the internet for about 12 years since we 'got connected' and I'm 82. I used a computer for many years before that. Of course, I'm a mystery writer too. Social networking? Other than writers' web lists, I've dipped into that only in the last two or three years-just after I started my website.

Now I sometimes long for those days before I was connected to the internet - when any time on the computer was writing time. There's a trade-off in all that, but I probably haven't figured it out yet.

Writer Lady said...

I'm in my 70's. I've been in love with computers since the 1970's. They are like an extension of my mind. As I am less able to run all day, the computer takes me out into the world and let's me know what's happening with the younger world as well as my family and other olders.

Yes, I'm addicted to Facebook, but I'm working on trying to cut the time down so I can do other things I need and want to do.

Grace Topping said...

I have gotten to know many writers through online contact and have learned so much from them. As a result, I try to be supportive by buying their books. Unfortunately, so many wonderful books by writers I like and a limited amount of money. If I read a library copy, I make it a point to write a review of their books on Amazon.

Karen M said...

I just turned 60 and have no facebook interest. If a company I do business with has a facebook only contest - I stop supporting them. I am waiting for that fad to pass. I am fortunate to live in an area where most authors pass through on tour, less so now that M is for Mystery has closed. I also attend mystery conventions. Meeting an author goes a long way toward interesting me in their work, usually.

ladyvyvian said...

I have made lists of books by authors I have encountered online and am trying to work my way through them. I am mainly reading through the library as I do not have the money or space for all of the books I would like to have. I just turned 65 years old on 8-28 and have been using a computer for many years. My last job involved doing data entry on computers. I got on facebook to keep track of my oldest grandson when he moved out of town but quickly found it was an ideal way to connect with friends and family. I also use e-mail to keep church members aware of what is happening.