I'm not here to make friends
When it comes to FB, boomers tell it like it is – which is sort of enviable
A topic of concern lately has been the growing use of social media among teens. A 2021 study published by Common Sense Media reported that on average, teens spent about 8½ hours per day on screen, with social media taking up a large chunk of that time.
Researchers were shocked by these findings. If you’re someone who happens to have been in the presence of a young person at any point in your life, your reaction might have looked something more like this: duh.
Teens and social media are as inseparable as the Kardashians and American culture. Sure, it’s toxic and probably rotting away some vital part of your brain, but you have to keep up, right?
To be clear, I don’t have a god complex, nor do I view myself as someone who’s beyond the allure of social media. In fact, I had to delete Instagram from my phone and relocate it to my iPad because I was spending way too much time hate-watching strangers’ GRWM videos. If you know, you know.
People love to disparage the digital natives for having “screens glued to their faces,” and as the data shows, this might be true. But in my opinion, there’s one generation whose social media use has gone unexamined for far too long. Baby Boomers.
Unlike Gen Z, for whom an online presence is almost synonymous with existence, Boomers grew up in a blessed time before blogs, vlogs and body dysmorphia-inducing filters. They have memories of the “good old days,” back when seatbelts were communism, you walked uphill to school both ways, and if you wanted to block someone, you just didn’t pick up the phone. I have friends in their late 20s who’ve bought clamshell phones just to chase the high of that kind of freedom, so the Boomer fascination with social media is endlessly interesting to me.
Technically speaking, I’m part of the digital natives because I was born after 1980 and have been surrounded by computers, digital devices and social media for most of my life. As part of the later Millennials, I grew up during a transitional period when we still spent our summer days exiled outside until the street lights came on, then logged onto Facebook in the evening to “poke” our crushes into oblivion before a light game of FarmVille. Thankfully, very few relics of my embarrassing teen years were immortalized online.
For people between the ages of 59 and 77, though, cringe-worthy posts are the norm, a daily ritual that mostly takes place on Facebook. By contrast, a Pew Research Center survey found that TikTok and Instagram dominate the social media landscape for today’s teens (which would probably explain why I was laughed out of the classroom when I suggested my students make Facebook Messenger groups for their team projects). Pro tip: if you ever think to yourself “Hey, I’m still pretty cool and young” and want to be immediately disillusioned of that belief, spend 50 minutes with a group of 18-year-olds.
Apparently, Facebook is now for dinosaurs. It’s also the place where your great-aunt will share an outdated GIF with a caption like “kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give,” as if she didn’t just post some of the most unhinged things you’ve ever seen another human being say online.
If you need examples, the perfect microcosm of Boomer behavior on social media exists on my neighborhood’s Facebook page. It’s a lawless land, filled with name-calling, questions that could have easily been Googled, and the ultimate Boomer move: correcting people’s grammar and spelling. (Bonus points if the correction is actually incorrect.)
I’ve been a bystander to some truly gripping interactions on this page. Personal favorites include the grandpa who kept referring to his next-door neighbor as “James Jerk” for an entire thread like they were two kids on a playground. And of course, who could forget the time two older dudes got into an argument and one of them used local tax records to find the offending party’s address, showed up outside their house, posted pictures of their driveway, and then demanded in a public forum that the individual come outside to fight them like it was a modern-day retelling of Troy? Classic.
In all honesty, I’m kind of jealous of Boomers for the way they communicate online, completely devoid of any filters. Thought your niece’s wedding dress made her look fat? Let her know in the comments. Do you have strong feelings about the Bud Light controversy? Go ahead and fire out those thoughts at six in the morning since you’re already awake anyway. Have you decided there are just too many genders to keep track of nowadays? Tell it like it is.
Unlike the rest of us, Boomers don’t use social media out of a desire to be liked. They’re not online to make friends and they’re certainly not anxiously curating the best versions of themselves for the digital world to consume. These folks are baring the unflinchingly honest reality of their souls, unnecessary commas and all, and for that, I admire you.
– Addyson Santese