“When you’re too old to use Twitter, you use it poorly” – Vince Staples, 22, American Rapper.

Historically (well, for the past 11 years if we consider Facebook the trailblazer) social media has been a “young person’s game.”

Following the launch of “Facemash” in October, 2003 – a website created by Mark Zuckerberg to allow Harvard students to see two randomly selected student images come up on screen, and then determine whether they were “hot or not” –  we’ve witnessed an overwhelming surge in methods of communication and how news is shared.

Following this foray into social networking, Zuckerberg, then 23, launched a new platform called Facebook in February, 2004 to connect Harvard University students.

Since then, Facebook has attracted more than 1.5 billion subscribers world-wide (more than 1-in-7 people), and expanded its service offering to allow for instant, simple networking opportunities, instant messaging, marketing and promotion, video hosting, and sharing of news content, and branding, among many other things. In summary, Facebook has become interwoven into our day-to-day lives.

So up to what age should an individual be using social media? Terms like “ageism” are regularly tossed around, but is there a point at which one becomes “too old” to correctly utilise social media?

Australian advertising creative, Simon Vesker, explored the stance of social media critics in a recent article published in Mumbrella, questioning whether they too, are indeed too old for social media.

Stating ageism (targeting both the young and old) is a social ill, on the same spectrum as sexism and racism, Veskner boldly argued that sometimes discrimination, for good reason, is completely justified.


“Social media is the first communications discipline in history for which ageism is justified. Do you see a lot of over 40’s on Snapchat? You don’t,” cited Vesker.


“Ageism in advertising has always operated at both ends of the scale. If you were ‘just a kid’ (i.e. 25 or under) you wouldn’t be trusted to make a big TV ad.


“And if you were 45 or over, you were told you were being taken to ‘a really fun place for cool people’, before being led gently into a back alley and never seen again,” Vesker said.


Yet unlike social media, with advertising, there’s a general consensus between all participating parties as to how advertising should be performed, argued Vesker.


Age appropriate use of social media is indeed, a hotly contested topic.


In a recent interview with MTV, American rapper, Vince Staples, 22, mocked how rapper Lil Wayne, 33, took to Twitter to vent his frustration at another older rapper in Birdman, citing, “Lil Wayne is too old to use Twitter, and when you’re too old to use Twitter, you use it poorly. That’s what happened there.”


According to Staples, he can’t understand why anyone over the age of 30 would use Twitter (or the internet).


Although, not necessarily representative of all Gen Y, the fact that a 22-year old media personality and entertainer believes adults aged 30 and above are too old for social media, demonstrates a clear division between what is being shared, and how it is being shared.


So, back to the focus of this blog. Is it possible for an individual to be too old to use social media?


According to Vesker, “The most salient and inescapable fact about media and advertising today is that digital media consumption is growing, and everything else is shrinking.”


Given recent stats revealing a massive decline in US TV viewership, compared with the uptake of digital media consumption, Vesker maintains “only about 15 per cent of Americans aged 16-24 claim to watch TV, versus 70 per cent of those aged over 65, and the 18-24’s have begun watching 30 per cent less TV in just the last four years.”


The latest quarterly viewing figures from Nielsen which capture the past five years of TV viewership in the US, reveal American youth are watching less traditional TV. This finding does not necessarily denote TV is a dying medium, as suggested by some social commentators, but rather, a changing platform and potentially one that needs to carve out a new niche among an older viewership to remain viable.


In a controversial piece published in NextGen Journal, University of Iowa student, Cathryne Sloane, argued anyone working as a social media manager should be aged 25 or younger, for they “have grown up with social media integrated into their everyday lives and thus have learned to use social media socially before professionally.”


However many argue Ms Sloane’s argument is flawed, for social media managers aged in their 30s and 40s who genuinely embrace social media, its fluctuating trends and fluidity in their daily professional and personal lives,  may too, understand the platforms well.


To suggest a definitive answer to this question would be foolish. Rather, before jumping too quickly onto the ‘age appropriate use of social media’ bandwagon, perhaps we should be asking ourselves four simple questions:


  1. Am I using social media?
  2. Do I understand it?
  3. How often am I using social media?
  4. Why am I using social media?


Is there a genuinely compelling argument that the Teenies and Gen Y who have grown up with social media defining their day-to-day lives, can actually better understand the channels than those who are older?


Whatever side of the fence you sit on, we’d welcome you’re informed opinion on this topic.


In the interim, perhaps it’s time for some older folk to acknowledge they’re beyond embracing and mastering the constantly evolving platforms of social media, and to start communicating in an ‘age appropriate’ way.


Or to the contrary, if many post- Gen Y work doggedly to explore and embrace the dynamic world of social media, its many nuances and constantly evolving platforms, perhaps we can start to carve out a social media savvy Grey Brigade.