Social Networking For Older Adults

elderly couple using laptop

While social networking platforms such as Facebook have made it easier to communicate with friends and family, there’s evidence of a digital divide between young and old.

A number of older people choose not to use this technology for a variety of reasons. According to Ofcom, 92% of 16-25-year-olds have set up a social media profile, compared to 25% of people over 65.

This project set out to identify reasons why older users may decide not to use social media platforms, and to compile a list of recommendations that may help developers avoid common pitfalls when designing such platforms.

A number of barriers were highlighted, including a fear of committing social blunders, a lack of confidence, concerns over security and a dislike of the “cold” nature of online communication. Two focus groups of participants over 60-years-old were drawn from the SiDE User Pool, made up of both users and non-users of social networking platforms.

Following consultation with these users, a prototype platform was devised containing a number of changes in font, security and functionality. Alterations included increasing the size of the text, selecting a high privacy setting by default, limiting email notifications by default, deleting adverts and removing location tagging.

The aim is to develop this research to analyse a wider range of social networking platforms, and to look at the barriers that emerge as such platforms evolve.

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C. Norval, J. Arnott and V. L. Hanson. (2014). What’s on Your Mind? Investigating Recommendations for Inclusive Social Networking and Older Adults. In Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 3923-3932. DOI=10.1145/2556288.2556992

C. Norval, J. L. Arnott and V. L. Hanson. (2013). Older Adults and Social Networking Sites: Developing Recommendations for Inclusive Design. Digital Economy 2013. (Salford, England, 4th-6th November, 2013).

C. Norval. (2012). Understanding the incentives of older adults’ participation on social networking sites. SIGACCESS Access. Comput. 102 (January 2012), 25-29. DOI=10.1145/2140446.2140452

C. Norval, J. L. Arnott and V. L. Hanson. (2011). (Poster) Proposed Improvements by Analysis of Older Adults’ use of Social Networking Sites. Digital Engagement 2011. (Newcastle, England, 15th-17th November, 2011).