Why Grown-Ups Use Facebook
Many people use social networks such as Facebook as a kind of container for all their online activities. I like to think of Facebook as an operating system. This is particularly the case with teenagers and college kids, who have Facebook open in their browsers all day long. They do almost everything from within Facebook—read status updates, send and receive emails, instant message with other users, share photos and videos, you name it. They never exit the site; it’s as constant for them as is Windows.
Older users, however, tend not to be as Facebook-centric as the young’uns are. I don’t know of too many people my age who are on Facebook 24/7, like their kids. We might check into Facebook a few times a day, but it doesn’t monopolize our lives. Or at least it shouldn’t.
Instead, grown-ups use Facebook on a more occasional basis to keep tabs on what friends and family members are up to. We tend not to be as addicted to Facebook as our kids are; we don’t have to know what everyone is doing on a minute-by-minute basis. Instead, we can log in once or maybe twice a day and get the general drift of everyone’s activities. That’s enough information for most of us.
Grown-ups also use Facebook to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in a while. A long while, sometimes. Personally, I use Facebook to hook up with old friends from high school and college, and to reconnect with former colleagues and those I might want to work with again. I guarantee you’ll find people on Facebook that you haven’t thought about for a long time. (Which may not always be a good thing, I suppose...)
Facebook is also a great place for family members—especially extended families—to keep abreast of comings and goings. It might take a lot of effort to write your cousins and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and stepchildren and in-laws and all the rest, but a single Facebook status update will do the job of multiple letters and emails. You can also use Facebook to share family photos with the rest of your family, which is tons easier than printing and mailing photos manually.
Speaking of family members, Facebook is a great way to spy on your kids. I don’t mean that in a bad way, of course (or do I?); I mean that Facebook lets you see what your children are up to without them actually having to have a conversation with you about it. All you have to do is add your kids to your friends list, and you’ll see all their status updates in your Facebook news feed. (That’s unless they adjust their privacy settings to exclude you from their most private thoughts, which if they’re smart they’ll do.)
Of course, there are plenty of ways for adult users to waste time on Facebook, just as our kids do. I know a fair number of supposed grownups who get addicted to Farmville and Mafia Wars and other social games, and spend way too much time playing them. So useless Facebook activity isn’t the sole province of the young; us oldsters can also spend hours doing essentially nothing useful online.
Bottom line, grown-ups use Facebook for many of the same reasons as younger folks do, but in a smarter and less intrusive fashion. Or so we’d like to think, anyway.