If you know anything about the changing social landscape, it will come as no surprise to you that the 55+ demographic on Facebook has become one of the fastest growing segments, followed closely by the 35-54 audience.  While Facebook originally began as a way for college students to connect and was only open to these users, the growth and expansion of Facebook has served as a blessing and a curse to those in their late teens and twenties.

Countless news articles have run stories focused on the fact that many teenagers are leaving Facebook because their parents are now joining and “embarrassing” them with comments and photos.  Teenagers have been up in arms about parents being able to join, as they feel it causes a loss of privacy and doesn’t allow them to interact with friends in the way they’d like to without being “policed” by over eager parents.

In my opinion, the teenagers can leave.  I personally am friends with both my parents as well as countless aunts and uncles and have never felt as if my privacy was being invaded.  Now, I’m about 10 or more years older than any teenager these articles have interviewed, but for me, the opening of Facebook to varying demographics has been a godsend.

I’m not much of a phone person.  I would certainly never call relatives just to see how they were doing.  It’s just not my style.  In fact, I have a hard time calling close friends just to chat.  Facebook allows me to connect with family members I previously lost touch with and stay involved in their lives.  This has been such a blessing to me, that I can’t imagine not having them in my life.  If it wasn’t for their presence on Facebook, I’m embarrassed to say these connections never would have taken place.  Imagine everything I would have missed out on!

Additionally, I’ve found as I get a bit older, I reflect often on friendships that carried me through my younger days.  In college, it’s easy to keep in touch with the people around you, but as people move, get married, have children, etc., it’s so easy to lose touch.  Without Facebook, I never would have been able to reconnect easily with some very dear high school friends, or college friends, for that matter.  Being able to stay in touch virtually has allowed me to foster so many more relationships than simply emailing or picking up the phone.  If the doors to Facebook had closed to me after college, I can’t imagine the types of relationships I would be missing out on.

The argument made about people like me is that Facebook and other social networks hinder our ability to make in person connections.  I completely disagree with this, and believe Facebook is the mechanism that brings us together in person.  The connections I’ve re-established virtually have allowed me to take these connections offline through lunch/dinner dates as well as invitations to my wedding.  Without the means to get in touch, these in person meetings never would have happened.

In turn, many are leaving Facebook over privacy issues.  In my opinion, if you’re smart about the way you set up your profile, this is a non-issue.  If you don’t have the “geotracking” feature enabled, who cares if it’s really there?  If you’re smart, privacy isn’t really an issue at all, and is certainly no reason to miss out on connecting with friends and family.

Does the older demographic sometimes post messages that would be better suited as novels all over our walls?  Yes, there is no question about that.  However, in turn, teenagers certainly could use a lesson in appropriate online posting from time to time.  I’d rather have long, mushy messages from my relatives than curse filled diatribes about how awful a teenagers life is for no reason at all.

If the teenagers want to leave, let them leave. They can go back to MySpace, or some other spammy, teen focused site.  Leave Facebook for those of us that truly want to connect with family and friends of all ages.  We’re getting way more out of this than you’ll ever appreciate.  Until you become our age.  😉

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