8 Benefits of Social Media for Seniors
If you're a senior and don't think of yourself as a social media user, you may want to think again. While it might be a little awkward to learn at first, social media can augment your real-life relationships and interests and lead to an overall improvement in your feeling of well-being. Take a look at this list to see the key benefits of participating in social media.
1. Socializing with friends
If working and raising a family left you little time for reconnecting with old friends, you may have more of an opportunity now. Getting in touch with people from past jobs, schools, clubs, or churches can enable you to rekindle those relationships, and sites like Facebook provide a great way to find people and make those initial contacts. You can also use social media to find new friends who share your interests.
2. Keeping in touch with family
If you live far from family, social media provides several ways to stay connected. Posting and viewing photos and videos enable you to stay up to date on your kids' and grandkids' activities and let them know about yours. Messaging allows you to send anything from a quick "I love you" to links with funny videos or good information. Many social media sites — including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram — also have a function that allows you to make voice or video calls.
3. Keeping up with news and sports
Facebook and Twitter both enable you to follow news and sports outlets you trust to get up-to-the-minute information about what's going on in your community, state, nation, and world. Doing so helps you stay informed and can give you a starting point for civic engagement. It can also keep you safer, as is the case with alerts about severe weather or other local emergencies.
4. Getting support for health issues
On Twitter or Facebook, you can follow organizations like the National Institutes for Health or Mayo Clinic for general health information. Additionally, Facebook has support groups for many types of physical and mental health issues. You can join these groups to communicate with others who may be facing the same challenges as you or someone you love. Just be sure to check with other reputable sources and your doctor before acting on anything you read in these groups.
5. Pursuing hobbies and interests
In addition to health-related groups, Facebook has groups of virtually every variety including ones for hobbies such as reading, gardening, travel, sports, and more. If you find one that looks interesting, make sure it's a good fit by spending some time "lurking" (reading but not participating) there before you add your own comments or responses. Instagram is a great place to follow hobby-related accounts, such as Expedia for travelers.
6. Learning technology skills
Learning how to use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can translate into general technology knowledge, since the actions you take on these sites are common to many others. Learning how to post, attach photos or links, like or comment on others' posts, and connect with other users are all skills you can use on many sites online.
7. Getting discounts and deals
Many retail outlets offer special deals for their followers on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media outlets. If you follow them regularly, you'll find discounts not available to everyone. Some sites, like Groupon, are even designed specifically for offering coupons and provide commentary from other users about the products or services featured.
8. Being entertained
Laughter is the best medicine, and that also goes for people who are perfectly healthy! Get a good chuckle from a friend's comment, a funny cat video, or a hilarious meme. Social media also offers options for playing games, reading amusing articles, sharing favorite memories, and following your favorite musicians, actors, and other entertainers.
How to Start Your Own Group on Facebook
You don't have to wait to find the perfect social media interest group to join. Facebook makes it easy to start your own! For example, you could start a group for your book club to keep in touch between meetings. Here's how:
- From your home page, select Groups in the left column.
- At the top of the page, click Create Group.
- In the Create New Group box:
a. Type in a name for your group.
b. Enter friends who you want to join the group.
c. Select whether you want the group to be Public, Closed, or Secret.
d. When you're done, click Create.
- Now you'll see a page that looks similar to your own Facebook profile. Personalize it by uploading a banner photo and writing your first post.
- As members join, use the Write Post button in the right column to welcome them.
- Use the buttons within the new post area to add photos, create events, and more.
Follow the Rules of Social Media Etiquette
Not sure how to behave on social media sites? There are certain conventions, which we discuss below. But, you'll never go wrong if you keep just one rule in mind: Treat others with the same respect and consideration you would want from them.
Ask before tagging. That photo of your grandkid in his first play might be adorable to you, but embarrassing to him. Remember to ask before tagging others in photos.
Stay positive. Sure, it's okay to complain now and then about work, a bad neighbor, or poor service you received at a restaurant. However, make those types of posts the exception, not the rule.
Dial it back. It's easy to get into a habit of posting about everything you see and do, especially if you're on a great vacation or at another fun event. Posting too much may put others off, though, so be mindful of your posting frequency.
Keep it tasteful. Too Much Information, otherwise known as TMI, is another turnoff for followers. Save the super personal stuff for one-on-one conversations in messages or, better yet, in person with people you're particularly close to.
Hashtag judiciously. Hashtags are fun once you learn how to use them. But beginners may have a tendency to overuse them. Keep it to one or two per post.
Stay humble. There's a thin line between sharing your joys and bragging. Social media is certainly a great place to share good news, but, avoid sharing it in a way that sounds boastful.
Return the favor. If someone on Twitter retweets something you've posted, look for an opportunity to do the same for them.
Learn about emojis. These small icons can express a wide range of thoughts and emotions, but sometimes they don't mean what you may think. To be on the safe side, research the meaning of emojis before you use them.
Be responsive. If someone asks a question on one of your posts, be sure to answer it. On your profile, you're the "party host," so be sure to be a gracious one.
Be discreet. When you first join social media sites, you want to connect with as many people as possible. Later, if you decide you want to disconnect from or "unfriend" someone, no need to tell them or anyone else. Just do it.
Be civil. If you don't agree with what someone says on social media, there are many appropriate ways to handle it, such as ignoring the comment or writing something assertive (not aggressive) in return.