Facebook is for older people

I love me phrase handwritten on the school blackboardThere is little doubt that social networking includes an element of narcissism. All around the social web you can find people who appear only to be interested in talking about themselves and promoting their activities. Partly, this does make them likeable because they demonstrate their interests so openly that we can understand them better. In return, they like us because we like them and boost their ego. In reality, there is an element of narcissism in all of us.

Online, however, it turns out that age and narcissistic tendencies are related to the social network of choice. According to new research from the University of Michigan, our age and narcissism affects our choice of social network. Younger people tend to prefer Twitter for narcissistic displays, whereas people described as “middle aged” tend to prefer Facebook to write about themselves.

This goes against the assumption that Facebook is a young person’s world. Part of the reason is probably due to the fact that Facebook is more about relationships, rather than overt displays of “look at me”. Twitter, however, makes it easier to simply provide a “look at me” kind of activity. Younger people are much more in the “look at me” stage of life because they are trying to attract new relationships; once they have an established relationship they need less of the narcissistic type displays and probably head over to Facebook to deepen and extend those relationships. However, once they are there and need to be in “look at me” mode, they probably only want their friends to notice such displays. It’s an age thing…!

This research shows, however, that we should not assume we really know anything about the way people use the Internet. We need to dig deeper and try to consider how a variety of human behaviours contribute to our online choices. It means that if you are in business you are likely to do less well if you start assuming things about the online world.

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