What Are Old People Doing on Facebook?

The site has never been more popular with over-55s, but what's going on in their News Feed that they love so much?
13 February 2018, 1:39pm
Ian Shaw/Alamy

You were probably too busy obsessively checking that your crush had watched all 32 of your Instagram stories to have noticed, but new research released this week found the average age of a Facebook user in the UK is getting higher, as younger users desert the site for Snapchat and Instagram, while its popularity soars with pensioners.

Half a million new over-55s in the UK are expected to join Facebook this year, in which case they will be the second biggest demographic on the website, losing out only to the 16 to 34-year-old bracket. But what are they all doing on there? The reason we've all stopped using Facebook is because it's so boring; it's just full of people asking if anyone knows a locksmith in the area, as if there wasn't this other website called Google literally designed for helping you find locksmiths.

So, what is this secret entertaining Facebook that old people are flocking to use?

Dawn, 58

VICE: What do you get up to on Facebook?
Dawn: I don't post. Very, very rarely do I post anything on there. I tend to just look and see what other people are doing. I'm mainly on there for groups – like my Slimming World group. I follow local shops, the woman that looks after the dog when I go away. So I'm mostly on pages.

What does a usual day scrolling down your newsfeed look like?
Lately, Facebook itself seems to have stopped refreshing, and I have to manually go to "most recent". I get lots of pictures of people's food, which is probably because of the Slimming World page. Although I'm friends with loads of people you only see things from about half a dozen people, and I never go to see what anybody else is doing. If it doesn't pop up, I don't bother.

A screengrab from Dawn's feed

What's the sort of thing you like seeing?
I like when I see posts from the family and can keep up with their kids and that kind of stuff. I like to see the kids, I like to see the pets. I like the quizzes as well, that people do.

What quizzes?
Things like, "Can you name the film from these pictures?" or "If you were a unicorn what colour would you be?" That kinda crap.

Is there anything you don't like about Facebook?
I don't like when people post pictures of animal cruelty – I don't want to see anything nasty. I don't like when people rant about politics either, because for me that's not what Facebook is about.

What is it about for you?
Keeping in touch with what family and friends are doing, not as a sounding board for what you don't like in the world.

Heather, 60

VICE: Hi Heather. What do you mainly use Facebook for?
Heather: Keeping in touch with friends and family, and for events.

Are you part of any groups?
Yes. Music, feminism, pets.

What kind of things do they post? Animal videos? Status updates? Photos?
All of that, but probably mostly music and political posts.

What do you most like seeing on your feed?
I suppose I like seeing stuff that makes me laugh. Or good news from family and friends.

And what kind of posts do you hate seeing clogging up your feed?
I find I get annoyed with certain people who post too much pointless shit. I usually unfollow them.

Thanks, Heather!

Minoo, 56

VICE: Hi Minoo, what do you like to use Facebook for?
Minoo: I use it to stay up to date with friends and family, especially those abroad in Iran and America who I don’t get to see often. And I like the recipe pages, but I never get around to making any of the recipes.

What do you usually see when you log in?
Recipes, news events, cute animals and quotes.

Can you tell me a favourite quote you saw recently?
“The game of life is a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy." It’s by an American woman called Florence Scovel Shinn, who was a spiritual teacher.

Joyce, 92

VICE: Hi Joyce. What do you think of Facebook?
Joyce: It's the most dreadful time-waster! It drives me mad I get so angry with myself. I talk to myself while I'm scrolling; there's a voice in my head saying, "Why are you wasting your time looking at this rubbish – what people have eaten and where they are." I do more deleting.

Of people?
No, of posts. If somebody is in a restaurant, or whatever, I just delete – I don't care where they are or what they're doing. Most of it is rubbish, I have to be honest.

What do you most like to see on your feed?
I like to keep in touch with friends that I don't see. If there's something coming up in their lives that's interesting, like a divorce, or if somebody is getting married in the family. I'm interested in that, but mostly it seems to be all these acquaintances who have asked you to be their friend and I've accepted out of politeness, and then all I get is, "I'm out at so and so," or, "I'm doing this," and I just think, 'I don't care! I've got my own life going on around me!' There are certain things I like to see, like if people tell me about a new show coming up – but most of it I think is rubbish.

So your least favourite thing is food posts?
Yes! I hate it when they show what they've cooked.

Does it make a difference if what they've cooked looks good?
No, it doesn't to me. I'm not a foodie – I eat when I'm starving. I don't think in the morning what I'm going to have for dinner in the evening.

What kind of things do you post?
Where it says on the top, "What is on your mind Joyce?", I might suddenly think, 'I saw this wonderful show last night and I must say something.' But it's only if there's something that I've got to say. I never put on that I'm depressed or have had a terrible day – I'd rather think about that at home and get over it myself without worrying everybody else about it. But if I've seen a lovely show or something funny has happened when I've been on the bus, I might put that on to make people laugh.

So do you use it mostly for conversations?
Yes, I like conversations. But on the whole I find it a complete waste of time.

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