Exploring Social Media This Holiday Season

Granddaughter helping grandpa to make online communication on laptop

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, my mental checklist is full of holiday-specific things to do. Send out greeting cards and emails to friends and family: check!  Gather everyone together for a fabulous turkey dinner: check! Get my nephew to teach me more about social media: check!

Is that last item on your list, too? If so, you are in good company. With 65 percent of adults now using social networking sites, families are discovering creative new ways to use social media to connect during holidays and stay connected throughout the year.

That's great news for older adults who are new to social media and want to use it to stay in touch! According to recent Pew Research Center findings, social media usage among people 65 and older has more than tripled in the past decade. That means in addition to learning about social media from younger people who have grown up using social media their whole lives, more peer-to-peer learning opportunities are emerging. For example, more community centers are offering social media classes tailored to 55 and older adults. Facebook is most commonly used by this age group, but Twitter and other services are gradually increasing in popularity as well.

While the options are many, the key to success is finding a tool that works best for you.

So, what is the best way to either get started or get better at using social media? Start small and keep it fun. Having a trusted friend or family member to guide you is very helpful. Family gatherings during the holidays can provide you with great opportunities to learn some new things together. Once you are confident that you understand the basics, consider collaborating with savvy family members or friends on a shared project. Make it part of a family holiday tradition you can revisit and enjoy each year.

Six social media projects you can start during the holidays

  1. Monthly inspiration. Try selecting 12 carefully chosen quotes or stories, favorite recipes, or beautiful photos and schedule them in a series of posts to inspire friends and family each month.
  2. Family history. Online scrap books, memoirs and genealogy projects are popular ways to use social networking to research, explore and share family history. Try exploring your home town online and share the results with family members.
  3. Photo album storytelling. Whether you are sharing photos of your garden, your pet, or your favorite foods, you can use these images to create themes and tell a story over time.
  4. Cheerleading. Do you have a family member that is getting ready for a math test? A major event? Or a marathon? Words of encouragement shared via a social media page can help a friend or family member feel supported.
  5. Community. Follow your local community centers and art centers, as well as local government via blogs and social media. Learn what’s new in your own backyard.
  6. Change the world. Follow and support community causes that are important to you. For example, do you love animals? Consider sharing success stories about pending pet adoptions and celebrate successful pet rescues via social media.

Social media tools are powerful, and creating a comfortable learning environment while you are getting acquainted with them is important. The holidays can be a great opportunity to get together with family and friends and have fun exploring these tools. However, before you begin, be sure to familiarize yourself with any and all best practices—including media etiquette, safety guidelines and privacy settings. Once you've set up the tools that work best for you, you'll discover many creative ways to expand your connections to family, friends and community well beyond the holiday season.

Contributor Ann Rogers-Williams is a professional writer with a Certificate in Gerontology and more than six years of experience in the Aging and Disability services field. She is currently researching intergenerational accessibility in digital marketing and communications and welcomes your feedback.

Let AgeWise King County and Aging King County know how you use social media or online technology to stay connected to friends and family during the holiday season.

‘Like’ us at www.facebook.com/AgingKingCounty.
Feel free to post there or tweet us @AgingKingCounty.