There was a time when families kept in touch through telephone calls, letters, and occasional visits. Photos were carefully developed and placed in photo albums to be shared weeks or months later, with precious copies occasionally sent through the mail.
Today, families connect and share information in so many ways it can be difficult to keep up. Most of us text regularly, call less often, email, and make regular use of social channels to share our news and photos. It can all be very foreign to seniors, however, investing the time in learning a little something about these platforms and why your family is using them can hold huge value. Imagine a grandparent shifting from seeing faraway grandchildren only during an annual visit, to seeing their daily adventures and watching them change and grow day by day online as well.
Most social platforms allow users to create profiles, upload profile photos and other images or text to customize what their profile page looks like. Users post and share to their own page, and that content becomes part of the feed of each user they are connected to. In turn, anyone you connect with shares their content into your feed to read and enjoy. Most allow private messaging of some sort, though usage varies from person to person.
Facebook is likely the most well-known of the social platforms, and is probably used by the widest age range of family members. Profiles allow members to connect with friends and family, join groups, and stay up to date on news and events. Users can post written status updates, photos, or share articles from news or entertainment sources on their personal profile pages, which then become part of the main feed of content for those with whom they are connected, or their “Facebook friends.” Companies, brands, news sites, and more can all create business pages from which to share articles or latest news, and users can choose to see their posts by “liking” the company or brand’s page. Members can connect with only those people they choose and control privacy settings to limit who is able to see their posts. While no social media platform is truly private, Facebook offers enough customization that most people feel reasonably safe sharing in the space. Facebook is free to personal users.
This is the most common platform connecting families today, and offers a wide range of benefits for those who would like to stay in touch and connect more often online. Faraway family members can feel very close for seniors reading daily updates, seeing photos, and engaging in commentary and conversation on shared articles and posts. With so many active users, Facebook is great for seniors looking to stay in touch with adult children, grandchildren, and friends – all who are likely to maintain profiles on this popular platform.
Instagram is a mobile based photo sharing app, allowing users to upload and share photos with those who follow their accounts. The “insta” in the name refers to the real time sharing of photos, though many find ways to share past photos with themes like “throwback Thursday” or “latergram.” The platform is intended to be used from a mobile phone, becoming an online album that is added to regularly. In-app editing makes the app appealing as even very amateur photographers can easily try out different filters or editing choices as they post images. Users can follow anyone they like, and photos are visible even to non-users of the site. Personal use of Instagram is free.
Seniors may enjoy the highly visual experience of Instagram, as feeds are entirely made up of photos. While commentary occurs with each photo, there tends to be less news or current events, and more captured moments one wouldn’t normally see of people’s lives. It tends to attract users who enjoy sharing visually appealing content, making many accounts pleasing to scroll through.
Twitter offers bite-sized news and social networking, from personal users and businesses alike. Posts can be written updates (up to a limit of 140 characters), photos, or links to articles or other online content. You customize your newsfeed by following other accounts. While anyone can follow any account on Twitter, posts are visible online even to those without an account. Opening a Twitter account is free.
Twitter tends to appeal to a younger demographic, however, the brevity and quick scanning of headlines can prove interesting for those comfortable enough to follow. The ability to follow and engage with any account can be appealing to those who have strong interests or opinions. Users can read tweets, reply to people they know, or tweet at or reply to public figures or businesses.
Primarily used for professional connections and career moves, LinkedIn traditionally works as an online resume and networking space. Users create profiles that mirror resumes, noting experience and education and spotlighting recommendations from those in their connection list. It can be used for job hunting, staying in touch with professional contacts, or staying up to date on industry news by following businesses and public figures. Use of the basic platform is free, with upgraded services available for varying rates. Profiles can be seen as an overview by anyone online, with full details visible to connections only.
Seniors who have recently retired or enjoy keeping up with their chosen industries might enjoy LinkedIn, as the feed they create will be articles and updates shared by their connections. Networking groups may prove an interesting source of trade and business articles.
Snapchat is another mobile app that has seen recent rapid growth in users and popularity. Allowing users to edit photos with often silly filters and effects, the main appeal lies in the short lives of the images, which last only a short time, and delete automatically. Users create images to send to other users, and set a time limit on how long the “snaps” will stay visible – from one to ten seconds. Recipients can then message back or share a photo themselves. While a few brands are beginning to play in this space, its most common use is imaging and photo sharing between users. Snapchat is free for personal users.
While senior users of Snapchat might be rare, it’s likely a name grandparents will hear in use by grandchildren who are using it. While they may not use it themselves, they may come to appreciate the silly nature of the effects possible within the app.
An important point to remember – when we’re using any platform online, there’s a cost associated with it. If we aren’t paying a membership or subscription fee and are enjoying a service for free, ads may be a part of that experience. A user’s feed consists of all the postings from connections and pages they follow, as well as occasional ads from companies who pay to promote on the platform. Those ads are why social media platforms are free for us to use! You might find them interesting or valuable, but if not, some platforms have ways you can adjust the type of ads you see – look for small drop down menus or similar that allow you to send feedback on each ad.
Social media can provide a great way for families to stay in touch, share more of their daily moments, and keep connected. We love hearing how families stay in touch, and share information that matters to them. You can connect with us on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Have questions or feedback on what you just read?
Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.
~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team