Age is no barrier in social networks: why you need to ignore the statistics

I’m fed up with talk of Gen Y vs. Gen X.  I’m bored with hearing how young people are ignoring the past and building their own future.  I groan every time I see a report that says young adults shouldn’t use social networks because they’re for old people.

It’s all nonsense.

photo by 1Happysnapper

photo by 1Happysnapper

Social networking features on websites we all know about: Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, Twitter.  The list goes on.  And on.  We participate in conversations, follow events, state our opinions, collaborate and create.  So much of what we do online is now about us.

I don’t appreciate reports that suggest how pointless a service is because a particular group of people don’t use it.  In the US, all social media is apparently dominated by people aged 35-44.  Time and again, we’re told that Twitter is not used by students and that it’s an older person’s hangout.

The average age of a Twitter user in the US is 39.1 years.  What’ll surprise you are the average ages of some other popular services:
Myspace31.8 years
Facebook38.4 years
LinkedIn44.3 years

Not one social network studied showed dominance amongst the 18-24 age range.  On every occasion a different age range reigned.

You might have been put off by Twitter in the past after reading that the average user is seemingly so old.  But I expect you already have a Facebook account.  What student doesn’t?  Will you stop using Facebook now you know the average user is nearly 40?  Exactly.

In fact, there are so many mature students going into Higher Education that they may soon outnumber those who traditionally go to university straight after school.  Does that make you want to drop your course because you think it’s not so relevant for your age group?  Didn’t think so.

So just for a moment, ignore the averages.  As Sheamus on Twittercism says, “the ‘average person’ has one testicle and one breast”.

Age should not be the reason you do anything in particular.  No matter what the averages are, there are people from all age groups spending time on social networks.  They have different backgrounds, different experiences, different expertise, different reasons for being, different interests, and so on.  Age (and any statistical average) shouldn’t matter a bit.  If you feel you can only associate with a certain group of people on a service, use more than one service until it covers everyone you need to speak with.

While Facebook doesn’t particularly go beyond ‘real-life’ friends, other services reach much further.  For instance, the majority of the people I follow on Twitter are not people I’ve met in the outside world.  I speak to people younger than me and older than me.  These are amazing people that I wouldn’t have found based on statistics or a brief five minutes playing with Twitter.

Understanding how to make best use of a tool takes time.  But it’s time well spent.  No matter what statistics are thrown at you, there’s no way of telling what use it could be to you unless you try.  The information would have to be strongly against you wanting to bother…and even then the information may not be supportive of your own unique position.

Anyone who refuses to talk and network with people outside their own age is crazy.  It’s not how people go about life.

So the next time you see someone ridiculing a service based on the average age of users, or any other irrelevant statistic, consider the possibilities beyond that.  Many important business people, academics and student leaders are avid Twitter users.  So are many rising stars in pretty much every field.  They are keen to engage with you and help you learn, develop, and move on.  And they’re keen to engage with you to help them learn, develop, and move on.

Are you happy to pass by offers like that?  Right now, people all over the world are listening and ready to help.  Ignore that at your peril.

2 comments

  1. A teacher of mine said to me the other day that “teenagers shouldn’t be on Facebook, it’s for adults”. That’s absolute rubbish if you ask me, young people are classed as the most social age group out there so it only makes sense that we want to be social online too. It’s ridiculous that people are saying these things are designed for adults especially when Justin Bieber is a trending topic on Twitter every other day!

    1. Absolutely, Jasmine. These services are not ‘for’ anyone in particular. They are tools that develop communities within them; some big, some small. As you say, Justin Bieber is a regular trending topic, and there are many teens and young adults using services for all sorts of reasons.

      We’re all social in different ways. The Web allows us to communicate however we wish. Nobody dictates where we can and cannot participate online, unless it’s specifically moderated or open only to particular accounts, areas, and so on. The big social networks are open to all, so there’s no one stopping us from taking part but ourselves!

      Thanks for your comment!

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