Written - August 2022
It’s been said on television and in the media for a while now, that as people are getting older they’re abandoning social media, and that platforms such as TikTok are attracting a much younger audience because this is the audience that the social media platforms want to attract. Thus people in their forties and older are moving away from social media. But of course traditional media would say this wouldn’t they as they’ve seen their audience dwindling over the last ten years and they’re pretty desperate to attract people back again.
The thing is, they’re not wrong. In the last year I’ve seen the number of posts from “friends” on Facebook drop by something between 70 to 80 percent, with many people no longer posting at all. It can sometimes be a few days before I see a decent amount of activity about what people are doing, or a photo of their cat. I have mixed feelings about this, and I was wondering how you feel?
If these were normal circumstances I would be celebrating the imminent demise of social media. Facebook on their own are responsible for a huge number of violations that have caused significant mental health problems in girls and young women, some of whom may have even taken their own lives. I have written previously about these problems, and how they were exacerbated during the pandemic.
For my own circumstance though I chose a few years ago to live a very isolated life in the middle of the French countryside. For many people back in the UK and elsewhere in the world, social media really is the only* way for us to keep in contact with each other. I put a *caveat on “only” though because it’s the best current way. Sure we could email, or send messages to one another, but it’s not as good or as effective, and we wouldn’t really spend the time sending individual messages to people as that’s not the way the world works.
I should add that I’m not looking for sympathy for my personal circumstances. I chose this life for myself and it’s completely idyllic. It can be isolating on some occasions however but I knew that would happen and have learned to live with it.
Then there’s the issue of groups. While I would be very happy to stop using Facebook (Twitter is still used for work so follow me there for articles and updates from this website) there are a couple of groups I run that do get a lot of engagement. One that I inherited from Microsoft some years ago, and another for the handheld computers I’m so very fond of. Shutting off my own use of Facebook wouldn’t necessarily help the people who still want to use those groups when I’m a main group administrator.
So for now at least, social media is the best way for me to stay engaged with the world. Something else will probably come along eventually, because the Internet is always reinventing itself, but for now there’s nothing I can envision that’s suitably different, yet captivating enough.
Social media, and Facebook and Twitter in particular are known to be fraught with problems, as I have already mentioned, these include the alternative of the endless scroll, the endorphin hit of a like, the algorithms that prioritise hate and angry messages, and the abuse many people receive from trolls and haters. Until there are solutions to these problems we’ll all find we want to take breaks from social media, or leave it entirely.
This all means that I now find myself in the position that most people in their forties and over are probably feeling themselves. Just using social media less, having more frequent and longer breaks from the platform, and popping back now and again to see what’s going on. We might not all want to as we want to stay in touch with friends around the world, but for now at least, we can only sigh and find something else, that’s perhaps more solitary and less social to do for a while until a better solution comes along.