Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Social networking and silver surfers

Guest blog by Dr Jyoti Choudrie, Systems Management Research Unit, Hertfordshire Business School

Dr Jyoti Choudrie
Ever wondered how many older people regularly use Online Social Networks(OSN) such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter?  Do they use them as much as younger people? Together with my colleague Dr Amit Vyas, we set out to find out the answers to these questions – and were surprised by the results.

With such rapid advances in internet technologies and the widening easy access to fast and reliable broadband, OSNs are an increasingly important for technology adoption.  And in addition, digital technologies can facilitate daily tasks, such that older adults may remain living at home independently for longer – information can be obtained and implemented so that their quality of life can be increased.

We used a random sample population of residents from the Hertfordshire area to identify and understand the adoption, use and diffusion of OSNs in the UK’s older population.

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For the purposes of this study, ‘older’ individuals are defined as being internet users of 50 years old or above, and often referred to as ‘silver surfers’.

Our research found that in terms of use, 46.8% of the 519 adopters of OSNs used their OSNs on a weekly basis; 37.6% on a monthly basis and less than 1.6% on a daily basis for more than two hours.

The most popular activities OSNs were being used for were adding people they knew as contacts (86%), commenting on pictures (57%), sending messages (60%), viewing photos (55%), and obtaining events and media information (41%).

In terms of OSN applications for e-government, participants were found to use OSNs for central (14.6%) and local (1.2%) government interaction and communication.

The team found that that Facebook was the OSN used the most at 66 %, followed by Twitter (47%); LinkedIn (41%); Branch Out (10.4%) and Google+ (7.3 per cent).

76% of OSN users posted a picture of themselves, with 21% not having a photograph.  Privacy concerns were also very important when an older adult was considering accepting the use of an OSN in daily life. An interesting finding is that older adults using OSNs are known within friends, family, and peers as having a greater social status and are ‘revered’ and viewed to be most popular within friends and family.

Our research showed that OSNs are being accepted and used by a group of society that is perceived as not accepting this technology.  Older adults are well informed on privacy issues and those who use OSNs are viewed to be really ‘up there’ within their social group.

This research is vital for companies such as telephone and mobile companies in identifying the reasons for using or not using new OSN technologies.  And for policymakers, this research shows that older adults are aware of many of the issues as younger people.

The full article is available at the  British Computer Society or BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT)

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