LUMBERTON — Evelyn Walters has 63 friends on Facebook, but recently realized she doesn’t know some of them.
“I have it, but I have no idea how to use it,” Walters said of her Facebook account.
The 72-year-old Lumberton resident recently attended a training seminar at Southeastern Regional Medical Center to learn more about how to use the social networking website, which has more than 500 million active users.
“I think it’s important because Facebook is so wildly popular and people are getting on it every day, so it’s great … to see what it can offer them and connect with people,” said Kelli Borbet, the Affinity Program Specialist for SRMC.
A friend of Walters’ set up her account, and based upon her 13 red flag notifications and eight friend requests, it has not had much activity since.
Borbet helped her to weed through some of the friends she didn’t know, delete them, reply to comments, accept friend requests, and complete other basic Facebook actions.
Walters’ friends include many of her family members and grandchildren, people she hopes to keep up with more easily using the new technology.
“The world’s getting more technologically minded every day,” Walters said. “For a senior citizen, you get left behind if you don’t try to learn.”
According to insidefacebook.com, there are about 28 million people older than 45 using Facebook, and about 10.5 million of those are 55 to 64 years old.
“People all over the world older than college age have taken to Facebook like a fish takes to water,” said Tony Curtis, a mass communications professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “There was so much pent up desire to get on Facebook by the time the age limits were expanded in 2006 that the number of users grew and grew … Pretty soon 10 percent of the world’s population will be on Facebook.”
About 14.4 million people ages 13 to 17 are on Facebook, so the numbers of young and old using the site are almost becoming even.
“Life in the 21st century is complex,” Curtis said. “We move around a lot and lose touch with friends and family. Facebook neutralizes that problem by letting us stay in touch visually no matter where we find ourselves. Parents and grandparents feel closer when they share pictures of the kids and keep up on family and old neighborhood news.”
Of Facebook’s more than 500 million active users, about 50 percent log on in any given day. Curtis said people use social networks to collect and share information, and they have become important in politics, marketing, and re-uniting families.
“It’s much easier now for the average person to contribute to society because of the access we have to one another,” Curtis said. “In fact, we can be much more influential through the new social networks than we ever were before.”
When Facebook was originally introduced in 2004, it was necessary to have a college email address to sign up. By 2005, high school students were welcomed to the site and in 2006, anyone older than 13 could sign up.
Not long after, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, bosses and teachers began popping up on Facebook. Curtis said he often communicates with students through Facebook messages.
Walters appreciates the one-stop-shop access she has to family and friends through the website.
“You can kind of keep up by what’s going on just looking at that rather than having to make so many phone calls,” said Walters, who has many friends her age on Facebook. “We chat back and forth.”
The younger generations may not understand why older family members are on the site, but the age group is not going anywhere any time soon, according to Curtis.
“Traditional-age college students marvel at their grandparents getting online,” Curtis said. “They like the idea, but wonder why. … The web is attracting large numbers of retirement-age folks today. There’s just a lot more stuff for retired people to do online these days.”
— Features editor Amanda Munger can be reached at (910) 272-6144 or at email@example.com.