Top Five Ways a Social Media Account Can Brighten Your Holidays

This winter season many of your loved ones will be logging on to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to share photos and stories of their favourite cookies, gifts, and heartwarming moments, and it’s no surprise. They’ll connect with family and friends, which is most important during the holiday season! What might be surprising, though, is that many seniors will be joining them. As the number of seniors who use the Internet grows, so does the number of seniors who use social media. Studies show that 44% of persons 55 years of age or older have a social networking profile, and 34% of those 65 years of age or older have one. As Mike Leahy of the Public Health Agency of Canada has said, seniors “are getting more comfortable online” — most likely because social media is free and can be used anywhere in the world.

However, if you’re not familiar with the Internet, social media networks can be overwhelming. Many seniors find themselves wondering just what Facebook, Twitter, or even “likes” and “retweets” are. There are many different platforms that allow you to connect with friends and family online, and each comes with its own lingo, netiquette, and navigation system. Dinner table conversations about the latest “memes” and “gifs” can leave non-users out of the loop. As a result, social media use is known in many seniors’ circles as the pinnacle of technological success. Ottawa and Gatineau’s seniors see those who use Facebook and Twitter as accomplished when it comes to using the Internet.

Are you thinking of crossing the generation gap and joining your children and grandchildren on Facebook or another social media platform this holiday season? If you take the leap, you’ll be able to chat with family and friends, enjoy festive entertainment, and more. Here are the top ten ways social media can make your holidays brighter. Read on – you might be surprised! And don’t worry; if you decide to join your family or friends online, our Students for Seniors technology tutors can help you decide on a social media platform and show you how to use it in no time.

  1. Connect With Family

Even the most festive of days can be disappointing when loved ones aren’t able to travel home for the holidays. The cookies don’t taste as sweet, the lights don’t shine as brightly, and the classic movies aren’t as warm and inviting. However, joining a social media network could be the perfect way to bridge the geographical gap and celebrate the holidays with far-off loved ones. Facebook has a messaging and video chat system that will allow you to see your children and grandchildren and chat with them as long as you like. While they won’t be able to open presents in your living room, you’ll be able to watch them do it in theirs, which is the next best thing. In fact, if you connect with your family on Facebook, you’ll be able to chat with them for free year-round. All you need is an Internet connection, and, if you want to video chat, a webcam.

However, social media accounts will allow you to see what your family is up to even when you can’t find a day you’re all available to log on and chat. You can leave them messages they can read when they log on, and you can see any photos or videos they post to their profiles. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram all allow users to react to and comment on posts. Keeping up-to-date with your loved ones’ pictures is a great way to communicate with them.

You might not always have the opportunity to show your family your photos in person, but with social media you can post your own and they can react to and comment on them, too. It’s a great way to keep them up-to-date with what’s going on in your life.  As Carmi Levy explained for iPhone In Canada, “In many respects, [using social media] is a purely practical process … if grandma doesn’t start using Instagram, she’ll have no way to share pics with the grandkids.”

You can even stay up-to-date with what your family is doing without worrying about seeming too nosy. Bertha Kronenberg, a Toronto senior, checks up on her family regularly. As she told CBC News, “I want to check up on my grandchildren … I want to see what they’re doing, their girlfriends, their boyfriends, what nonsense they’re up to. But I’m a silent granny. I don’t make comments, but I know I keep in touch that way.”

 2. Chat With Friends

Social media platforms give you the opportunity to connect with friends who you aren’t able to see on a regular basis, too. Just like with family, you can see their photos and videos, share your own with them, and even message them and video chat with them. Many seniors even use social media to connect with those they see on a regular basis. On days that they’re unable to leave their house due to inclement weather or mobility issues, they can still keep in touch with their friends face-to-face.

  1. Find Old Friends

A unique aspect of social media is the way that it allows you to reconnect with old friends from your past. While you may have lost touch over time due to distance or other factors, you can find them again by searching for their name on Facebook or Twitter. If they have a social media account, you can follow them or add them as a friend and message them. While you might not be able to meet for a coffee due to distance, you can chat with them face-to-face using Facebook’s video call option or message them on Twitter.

Not surprisingly, many seniors who use social media platforms have taken advantage of this perk. In 2009, 64% of social networking users had looked for information about someone from their past, and about 50% of all social networking users 50 years of age or older had been contacted by someone they used to know.

Some seniors are concerned when they’re found by someone they don’t want to speak to, but social media platforms have safeguards in place that allow users to avoid specific people. All you have to do is “block” a person’s profile. They won’t be able to see or contact you through social media again. You can even give your profile private security settings.

  1. Meet New People

As Anita Kamlel reported for Huffington Post, “While their younger counterparts use social media in a “selfie” sort of way, the elderly use it to connect with like-minded individuals.”

Whether you’re looking for seniors in your community or looking for others around the world who have interests that are similar to yours, you can meet and connect with new people. Facebook allows users to “like” community pages based on interest, and users who like the pages can message others who like the same thing. On all social media platforms, users can chat with others about topics by commenting on posts or photos as well. This means that even if your community doesn’t have any groups for a particular hobby you’re interested in or if you’re unable to attend meetings, you can meet like-minded people – seniors or otherwise – to discuss favourite topics.

If the prospect of meeting new people makes you uncomfortable, however, you’re not alone. Most seniors who use social media are concerned about their privacy, and for good reason, as people are not always who they say they are on the Internet. While healthy skepticism goes a long way online, you can set your profile settings to private to protect any information about yourself while interacting with others. Some social media platforms such as Tumblr even allow you to create anonymous profiles to prevent strangers from contacting you.

  1. Stay Healthy

Staying connected to family friends through social media especially benefits seniors who are isolated due to geographical distance or mobility issues. Studies have shown that social media is an important way to reduce feelings of loneliness and to combat symptoms of depression. If you’re feeling down because your family isn’t able to visit you for the holidays or otherwise, just log online and chat with them or connect with friends.

Studies have also shown that social media provides more than just social benefits. Seniors who use social media have better cognitive functions and improved health. They report feeling invigorated and motivated. This is because satisfying your social needs can have a positive impact on your overall health. If you’re battling Alzheimer’s disease or simply need a small pick-me-up, joining a social media platform may be for you.

Are you thinking of joining your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter this holiday season? Let us know by commenting below, or share these five ways with friends or family members who might be interested.

If you’re still undecided, check our next post to see five more ways that social media can brighten your holidays!

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