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.

EduLinks – Bad Habits, Problem Solving, Social Media…Oh, and an Election

Time for another dose of EduLinks.  Happy weekend reading.


President-Elect Obama:

I hear there’s been an election in the US.  That was kept quiet…

Justin Wise writes at Brazen Careerist that Obama “mobilized younger voters to actually show up at the polls”.  Now Obama is in, a lot of young adults are very hopeful of what’s to come.  As the Chronicle shows, online social media continues to give a hearty shout out of support to Obama.  Here’s to the future!

Joongel – Internet Search Portal

This is one of the better search collaboration sites I’ve come across.  It’s not perfect, but as a basic research tool, it goes miles further than Google alone.  I stress the word ‘basic’ though, because it’s not an academic search portal.  Good for most stuff, though.  It goes through a wealth of sites, with the following categories:

Images; Music; Videos; Shopping; Social; Q&A; Health; Torrents; Gossip; Cooking; Analytics; Local; Finance; Jobs; Property; Dictionary; Reference; News; Family; Movies; Blogs; Tech; General

Bear in mind that Joongel is currently focused on the US, so some categories won’t be much use in the UK (such as Jobs, Local, Shopping, etc.).  Joongel say that they are working on collaborations around the world, so it may not be long before a UK version crops up.  Fingers crossed.

Zen Habits – The 7 Keys to Turning Bad Habits Into Good Habits

We usually know when we’ve got a bad habit.  The problem is getting away from them.  There may come a time when you want to try snapping out of unhelpful habitual routines.  When that time comes along, let Zen Habits help ease you into a much happier way of life.

Leo explains, even if you slip up once, then twice, then seven time…don’t give up!  He speaks from experience too.

Bangor TV @ University of Bangor

It may not be interactive, but Bangor TV is a growing set of videos to whet the appetite of prospective students to the university.  I hope the output also boosts the engagement of current students and perhaps even allow them to give honest accounts of life at Bangor.

No university can offer 100% delight and it’s great for prospective students to hear from like-minded people already living a uni lifestyle, so I hope the UK can one day see their own version of Unigo, which is proving successful in the US.

Litemind – Einstein’s Secret to Amazing Problem Solving (and 10 Specific Ways You Can Use It)

If you can clearly define the problem, the solution is in easy reach.  The key to solving a problem seems to be to enjoy the problem.  Luciano has done a great job in highlighting ten problem-solving techniques that we’d all be wise to keep in mind when trying to figure out what’s going on.

Converstations – Social Media Success Plan for Beginners: 6 Hours for 6 Weeks

It doesn’t take long to move beyond Facebook and add a whole new dimension to your online being.  Mike at Converstations urges you to spend six hours for six weeks, building up a blogging, reading, twittering, social media machine.  It’s definitely worth it.  And I suggest you read the comments too.  For instance, Mike adds that a person who is bright-eyed and open-minded about social media should start on blogging, but a closed-minded and doubtful person should begin their quest with RSS feed reading.

Twitter How-to Links:

I use Twitter a bit.  On and off.  Not as much as I probably should.  Nevertheless, Twitter is a great tool and it’s growing in popularity.  If you’ve heard of it, but haven’t got as far as jumping in and joining the 140-character message bandwagon, these links make the process as simple as possible.  You can follow me at and see if I get any better at posting!

Twitter Time

For those of you in the know, I’ve finally set up a Twitter account.

For those of you who aren’t aware of Twitter, I’m now writing brief updates (no more than 140 characters…them’s the rules) and providing various EduLinks throughout the day.  You can find the Twitter box to the side of the page.

Twitter Logo

Regular readers will have noticed more sporadic posting than usual.  Still 2 or 3 regular posts each week, but a lack of EduLinks.  It’s all because I’m preparing for the birth of my first child.  Woo!

So rather than feel overwhelmed after the birth, I wanted to arrange provision for TheUniversityBlog.  I thought the best way of doing that was to prepare loads of blogging topics, start writing about a zillion posts, and do it in the time I would usually sort out EduLinks posts.

That’s why Twitter seems a good idea.  I can keep you updated outside of standard blog posting, and I can post over general links as and when I discover them.  Let me know how you feel about it as I go on.

My Twitter account is at and you can follow me (subscribe to my Twitter feed) there or simply check the side of the page here on TheUniversityBlog.

Keep up with my short updates and EduLinks at Twitter