Many Baby Boomers think by joining a social network, it will bring them instant relationships and added friends. But it takes a little more effort to build your social network.
As a child, remember how easy it was to make friends? I recently observed children go into a playground and within a half hour they are all talking with each other. It resulted in discussions on playground activity they will focus on next. Like all other social interaction, Baby Boomers need to make that kind of effort to reach out to another.
Similar effort was needed as we aged into our 20’s and 30’s. We continue to reach out to others in a gesture to increase our social network. Why? Because as we continue to build our social network with people of similar interests, we were able to find others who can share experiences we enjoyed. Sharing activities we enjoy with others build closer friendships. For example, when you go to a park and see volleyball games in progress, if let it be known you would like to join in, you are likely to get into a game. The desire to play outweighs any fear in asking strangers who may eventually become part of your social network.
Today, we see how online social networks bring together people from all walks of life and in every corner of the earth under the same rules as found on the playground. It is the 20 to 30 something population that has popularized this form of friendship. Almost effortlessly, this generation makes acquaintances on the social sites by reaching out and asking others to join in. It has become so popular that the Baby Boomer and Senior generations are being dragged into joining, over a mild protest. Many Baby Boomers and some Seniors join a social network to communicate with family members and take little or no steps to socialize with others of their own generation. Why is that? Making friends requires effort and taking risks that many Baby Boomers and Senior learned in their youth, but have not practiced in years. In fact, a Baby Boomers’ mostly restrict their social network to childhood friends and family missing out on meeting new people and experiencing desirable activities.
How Baby Boomers and Seniors respond to Social Networks
I manage a local social activity group for Baby Boomers and Seniors. Ninety percent of the members of this social group list “making new friends” as their primary reason for joining the group. My role is to facilitate adult social events for group members. Those with interest in the event show up and engage with the expectation of expanding their social network. It takes an effort for members to go to the event and reach out to introduce oneself, an effort that many in this age group find difficult. But once accomplished, many members become friends.
As a developer of a social network for baby boomers and seniors, I see a greater reluctance for members to engage because of the virtual nature of the web site. Many people just sign up and wait for something to happen. This is not unique to our site, but also occurs on larger sites like Facebook. Just signing up and making no effort to participate is like going to the playground and sitting at the edge. You can watch what everybody else is doing, but not many people will go out of their way to get you involved in an activity.
To truly benefit from social networks, and to build ones relationships, the rules are no different from playground rules. Find an activity of interest (you like the see-saw – go join the people on the see-saw), share it with others nearby (see who else likes the see-saw), get to ask questions of your new friend (get to know your new see-saw friends) and participate in a couple events (now try the swings and the slide). It is that simple, and the results will be the same; you will get to learn if you have anything in common with the other person and if future activities are in order (if you like the kids you are playing with, you will most likely play with them again).