October 17, 2007

Geezers Crashing the Facebook Party

Last week I was invited to present to University of Maryland’s Media, Self & Society program on the topic of social networking. Typically, when I give presentations about our research on SNS, my audience consists of adults in leadership positions, many of whom are trying to answer several key questions: 1) Why is social networking so popular with young people? 2) Is it just a fad that will soon recede into the sea of dead tech trends? 3) If it isn’t a fad, how can my organization or business take advantage of all the buzz around social networking?

However, when I get a rare chance to present to students, the tables are turned. I’m the one with the questions, and I’m eager to hear uncensored reports straight from the networked horse’s mouth, as it were.

In this instance, many of the students’ comments echoed trends that have been highlighted in recent articles and reports:

First, according to them, there’s clearly something creepy and weird about the influx of adults “infiltrating” what were once the collegiate walls of Facebook. A recent NYTimes article described this as the “graying” of Facebook.

Even creepier to them: The growing realization that the public versions of many social networking profiles are accessible via search engines and could be searched by potential employers.

So, while there may not be the same expectation of privacy among peers in this generation, there’s still a sense that when older adults crash your party online, unless you’re Frank the Tank, it’s probably not a welcome intrusion.