Saturday, February 24, 2024

9 Ways to Be as Social Media-Savvy as Your Grandchild

Dear grandchildren, it’s time to ride shotgun—your grandparents are taking the wheel, riding the twists and turns of the social media highway.

Like a cocoon that wraps us in its warm embrace, social media titillates our senses and acts as a window to the outside world.

While the younglings often find themselves engaged in a whirlwind of likes, comments, and shares, we, the older folks are not trailing far behind—no surprise there.

If we jump on Facebook, YouTube, or even Instagram today, we’ll stumble upon numerous examples that shatter the outdated stereotype of tech-wary seniors. We’re not just ever-present; we’re curating our social personas as culinary maestros, stunning fashion icons, wise relationship gurus, daring globetrotters, and so much more.

Quick to engage with diverse brands and communities that invigorate our spirits, we are honing our tech savviness to go all out on social platforms. Here are 9 ways you, too, can do just that!

Unleash your social side

Video calling

Captured a family picture by the lakeside? Or a video of yourself hollering in the stadium as Virat Kohli smashed a sixer into the stands? Don’t let those memories gather dust in your phone gallery. Instead, secure a special spot for them on your Facebook feed. In a space often dominated by the younger crowd, who says the over-65ers can’t make their mark.

My grandparents are the active soul-stirrers of our WhatsApp family group, sharing nuggets of daily wisdom, adorable couple shots at cafes, side-splitting short videos, and even detailed culinary expertise through voice notes. Without them, the only noise in our group would be that of crickets.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve observed my grandmother lovingly gazing at photos of loved ones shared on WhatsApp. It’s a scene that never fails to tug at the heartstrings, showcasing the emotional richness social media can bring into our lives.

Even video conferencing regularly through Skype helps bridge the distance between granny and grandkids (who, more often than not, reside overseas). The face-to-face contact, albeit virtual, ignites immediate comfort, enabling seamless reunions when physical distance finally fades away.

Beat loneliness 

Social medi rubix cube

As the years pass us by, our social connections trickle down to a handful, and the first hints of loneliness set in. This could be for many reasons—close friends pass away, family members get busy raising their family, and loved ones scatter around the world. If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family near, sometimes busy schedules, mobility issues, and illnesses could act as rigid barriers to spending quality time.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide a sure-shot way to combat loneliness and improve social inclusion for all age groups. Youngsters often turn to diverse media platforms to feel a sense of oneness with friends, family, and brands they follow.

The same goes for older adults. From staying connected to long-distance friends, organizing catch-ups, and discovering community groups of like-minded individuals, the online social world has the power to potentially build your social life when physical challenges creep in.

Rekindle old connections 

Social media plays a pivotal role in not only sparking new friendships but also rekindling long-lost ones.

No strangers to reaching out to old pals, the younger generation effortlessly sends messages like, “It’s been a while. Wanna hang?” But the same can’t be said about seniors. Their friendships were primarily forged in person, and if the connection fell apart, there was no guarantee they’d cross paths again. The good news is social media, especially Facebook, has been changing this somewhat bleak narrative.

All you have to do is create your Facebook account, key in your long-lost friend’s name in the search box, and send them a message expressing your wish to connect. Remember to upload a clear profile picture of yourself and include a brief introduction so they can easily recall you.

Most importantly, be patient since people can take a while to respond. You don’t know everyone’s comfort level with online interaction, and the last thing you’ll want is to drive them away with constant messaging. Once they do reply, take the opportunity to reminisce about shared experiences and embark on a journey back in time. Every age group deserves to feel the enveloping comfort of genuine friendships.

Boost learning opportunities 

Gone are the days of the tired stereotype that the old and wise are considered “out of touch”. Learning is a lifelong process, and social media opens opportunities galore. You can join Facebook groups that align with your interests, such as Senior Planet, Fab After Fifty, and My Itchy Travel Feet. Social platforms have also become the hot spot for researching topics and seeking answers through detailed online channels.

Reddit, for example, is a social media forum website known for its sense of humor and niche communities (subreddits). You can dive into intense discussions and learn about a plethora of subjects through the real-life experiences of others.

Depending on the group or channel you join, you can access numerous online courses ranging from pottery and virtual fitness classes to basic computer skills and modern script calligraphy. It’s all there, ready for the taking.

A medium for entertainment 

In the wise words of motivational coach Tony Robbins, “We aren’t in an information age, we are in an entertainment age.” Translation? We’re all craving a good time, and thanks to social media, there is no dearth of enthralling escapes. Grab your phone, tap that itty-bitty social media icon and boom! (*cue dramatic voice*) Welcome to the entertainment extravaganza!

A platform like YouTube stores classic movies, music videos, and television shows from yesteryear, while Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Reddit seamlessly direct you to blog posts and gaming sites. When you migrate to one or many of these mediums, you’ll be bombarded with various forms of entertainment, from stand-up comedy and viral videos to contests and meme pages.

Stay current and feel in the know

Alongside entertainment, social media emerges as a vast sea of knowledge if used the right way. It’s no surprise then that close to 64.5 percent of the population receive breaking news from Facebook, X ( formerly Twitter), YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram over traditional media.

While there’s no denying the timeless charm of reading the newspaper with a cup in hand, news sites have leveraged the opportunity to capture the reader’s attention mid-scrolling. The youngsters latch onto their phones at the strike of dawn and within minutes are notified of the political/social/entertainment scene halfway across the globe.

With seniors jumping on the bandwagon, they, too, stay well-informed, holding their own in a conversation or perhaps even a heated debate. That said, integrating news into social media has unfortunately beckoned the era of “fake news”. Misinformation channels on platforms like YouTube compete with hard facts, making authentic content hard to come by. Before you know it, older adults become easy targets, given their comparatively lower digital literacy.

But that’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom hereafter. With some basic research, you can follow genuine and unbiased news channels so that only these are displayed on your newsfeed.


Building an online business 

Older adults are redefining retirement. According to a study by Max India Ltd, close to 64% of seniors (50 years and above) in India are contemplating extending their professional careers post-retirement. This inclination is driven by factors such as the desire for financial independence, mental stimulation, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What’s more, it’s never too late to don your entrepreneurial hat. And with social media in the mix, you can stay relevant and build a consistent image around your brand. Just as your grandchildren use social media to their advantage, so can you. It acts as a strategic marketing tool to offer special promotions, generate brand awareness, and showcase how your work positively impacts the community.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others offer business pages that legitimise and inject credibility into your company. This way, you can draw more clients and amp up your networking game. It also helps to direct potential customers to your business’s website, converting them into loyal buyers.

Online purchasing 

Just the other day, my grandfather ordered a massive wooden bookshelf he’d seen in an ad on one of his Senior buddies’ Facebook groups. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

According to findings by McKinsey, since older consumers have more leisure time, they spend 25% extra time shopping per dollar over their younger counterparts. Believe it or not, Alibaba astutely leveraged this insight, introducing an innovative elderly mode on their Taobao shopping app that simplifies information, enlarges fonts, and integrates a built-in voice assistant.

With consumerism running rampant, buying online has never been easier. Be it grocery shopping or purchasing the latest in silver jewelry, social media is the go-to hub. And who fits the bill as the ideal customer? None other than those with disposal income. Enter you, aka our dear seniors.

Share life experiences 

Whether you celebrated 50 years of marriage with the love of your life or ran a 15km marathon after a lengthy recovery, your young peers are all eyes and ears. We yearn to know the trajectory of your life so we can mold our own, picking up invaluable lessons and a wagon full of wisdom. Trust me, even a glimmer of insight goes a long way in keeping us afloat.

The best place for such interactions would be social media! Flip that live-streaming switch, drop a short video, throw up a carousel of advice, and entice us with a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it story. Seriously, just about anything goes.

Caption: Dancing Dadi Ravi Bala Sharma tapping her feet to the song What Jhumka. (Instagram/@ravi.bala.sharma)

For inspiration, head over to the following Instagram handles—@ravi.bala.sharma (graceful dancing dadi), @mr._and_mrs._verma (couple goals at 70), and @shyamsunder.official (senior fashion model).

A word of caution   

Once you start exploring this sprawling space we call social media, it might initially seem like a haven, yet nothing could be further from the truth. As eager as you might be to jump right in, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamentals of online safety. Here’s what you’ll want to do:

  • Create strong passwords on every platform
  • Regularly update your passwords
  • Do not share personal data like financial details
  • Steer clear of and report any fraudulent activities

With the basics in place, you’re all set. Social media is a playground of opportunities for you to discover, and in this lifetime, discover you must!

Karishma Joshi
Karishma Joshi, a meditation-driven wordsmith, crafts content in the realm of tech, health, and wellness.

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