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Social Networking Offers Many Potential Benefits

Social Networking Offers Many Potential Benefits

Recently, You Tube made an unknown Scottish singer, Susan Boyle, an overnight international sensation. Online social networking sites have become a cultural phenomenon. Primarily used by people 25 and under in the past, these sites are now attracting older individuals.

According to a recent article in USA Today, “Boomers Zero in on Social Networks,” baby boomers are rushing to social networking sites and are the fastest-growing group of users. 
What do all these sites mean to you? Social networking affords you another way to connect with others, which can add to the quality of your life and potentially provide health benefits. And, social networking is just plain fun.

The following articles might entice you to hop on the social networking bandwagon:
Stephanie Clifford, of the New York Times, recently wrote the article “Online, ‘a Reason to Keep on Going.’”
Clifford writes, “That more and more people (older adults)…are joining networks like Eons, Facebook, and MySpace is hardly news…But now researchers who focus on aging are studying the phenomenon to see whether the networks can provide some of the benefits of a group of friends while being much easier to assemble and maintain.”

People interviewed by Clifford said that online social networking provides them a reason to keep going. Social networking and technology provides older adults the opportunity to make new connections, and perhaps, to decrease the isolation and loneliness that can plague old age.

An article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times, “What are Friends For? A Longer Life” highlights the importance that friendship plays in maintaining health. Parker-Pope writes that researchers are only now beginning to look at the benefit that relationships play in overall health.  Parker Pope refers to The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow, which illustrates how friendships continue to sustain the women throughout their lives.

Rebecca Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro states, “Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.” These findings encourage us to consider the question: Can virtual relationships provide the same health benefits as friends or family provide in person?

Lev Grossman provides a humorous perspective on social networking in an article entitled, “Why Facebook is for Old Fogies,”  which was published February 12, 2009 on Time.com. Grossman offers 10 humorous but real reasons why older adults, particularly boomers, would enjoy this phenomenon. As his top reason, he indicates that Facebook is about finding people that you have lost track of over the years.

Grossman writes, “And, son, we’ve lost track of more people than you’ve ever met. Remember who you went to prom with junior year? See, we don’t…” He ends by stating, “Facebook never forgets.”

Anita Gates, of the New York Times, also wrote about the joy that Facebook can provide. In her article, “For Baby Boomers, the Joys of Facebook,” she writes, “Finding or being found by old, old friends, all the way back to grammar school, can be a real kick. How many 14-year-olds have truly long-lost friends?”It seems that the ability to find old, old friends on Facebook will continue, especially since women over 55 are the fastest growing group of consumers on the site according to InsideFacebook.Why jump on the social network bandwagon?

Reconnecting with long-lost friends? Check
Benefiting your health?                          Possible check
Providing a reason to keep going?     Check
Changing demographics of users?    Check

Joseph F. Coughlin, director of AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said to Stephanie Clifford in “Online, ‘a Reason to Keep on Going,’”  “The new future of old age is about staying in society, staying in the workplace, and staying very connected. Technology is going to be a very big part of that (future).”

Providing you the opportunity to be
engaged throughout your lifetime?     Check

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