Does social networking mean anything to the UK Government?

What does social networking mean to you? Probably, you think of things like Facebook, Ecademy, MySpace and so on. Do you also automatically think of teenagers? Well, the average age of people on Ecademy is mid-40s, for MySpace it’s mid-30s. So, sometimes our views about who is using social networking can be cloudy.

Online there is plenty of fiction purporting to be fact. But none more so than from the British Government. For a start it’s latest project from the Department of Work and Pensions is for “old people” which it seems is anyone “over 50“. Now as someone who is not far from his 51st birthday, I’m not convinced I am old. And I suspect that Richard Branson and Bill Gates, who are both older than me, don’t think they are old either. And Rupert Murdoch, the boss of MySpace – well he’s in his late 70s (don’t tell him he is ancient by British Government standards, the shock might be too much).

Clearly, Government definitions of being old are far from “real world”. So it will come as no surprise that the Government is behind an “older persons” blog – for those over 50 – written by a chap from the Department for Work and Pensions who is clearly not over 50 from his photo. It’s all part of a scheme for “older persons” to let the Government know their views on technologies such as social networking.

Well here’s one view for our friends in the Government – stop calling us “older people” and you might get some positive views. And, find out some facts about the use of the Internet first; social networking is not as alien to us over 50s as you might think. In fact, some of the most avid social networkers I know are well into their 50s, some are in their 60s. Gosh, how can they cope with this Internet thingy at such an advanced age?

But the Government appears, like many people online, to make assumptions about things – such as how the over 50s perceive themselves or how many of them use online social networks. And assumption is usually the enemy of success. So if you have any kind of online presence, don’t make assumptions about the people you are connecting with – to do so will make you too much like the Government.

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