Laughing at Facebook's "older" users

Over the weekend I saw the New York Times article about how college users of Facebook were laughing at those of us who are, um, “older.”

Scott Karp jumped in and cheered on that point of view and says “…the issue is that so many “adults” fell for Facebook’s ploy to convince them that they should adopt a toy built for college kids as a platform for their professional networking objectives.”

Ahh, but I was at Sun Microsystems in a meeting with some of their folks and some folks from Dow Jones. Interesting facts: more than 10% of Sun’s employees are on Facebook already (keep in mind that most of that growth started after the app platform was released just a few months ago). Same with Siemens. Same with Microsoft. And nearly every company I search Facebook for has thousands of employees: Lockheed Martin, which is where my dad worked for 30 years, has 3,700 employees on Facebook already.

Fred Stutzman puts the punctuation on these two articles, along with another one by Fred Vogelstein, with a post of his own titled “Opposing Opinions of Facebook.”

So, why the disconnect?

Well, first there’s some myths of business networking:

Myth One: that business networking needs to be cold and dispassionate.
Myth Two: that business networking never includes personal stuff like religion, sports, politics, or your favorite TV show or book.
Myth Three: that business requires a “networking” affordance.
Myth Four: that business requires getting rid of the college kids and their frat parties.

All of these are totally false. But lots of people believe them to be true, which is why we’ll see more articles like the one in the New York Times on Friday.

How will we know that the discovery phase of Social Networking is over? When we stop seeing these kinds of stupid rifts. Do we argue about whether it’s young or old or cool or smart to use a business card? No, I had them in college. I have them now. Never even thought of arguing about that. Someday we’ll just use Facebook and we’ll all get along. Until then, phhhhhhhhbbbbbttttttt to all you college students who think I’m ruining Facebook!

Comments

  1. Maybe they are laughing because of the limitations of Facebook’s relation definitions that we are trying very hard to twist! I still don’t understand what they are waiting for at FB to expand their list of “relations”.

  2. Maybe they are laughing because of the limitations of Facebook’s relation definitions that we are trying very hard to twist! I still don’t understand what they are waiting for at FB to expand their list of “relations”.

  3. IBM has about 20,000 employees on Facebook. We’ve explored how that can be used for internal communications/engagement objectives, and have discovered that there’s real potential – though many prefer to keep their “personal” and “professional” lives separate (I call it the “do I want my boss to see me in my bathing suit?” problem.) If Facebook can solve this – and the reports from last week that they’re developing a way for users to have dual profiles suggests they’re trying – FB’s value for networking will increase considerably.

  4. IBM has about 20,000 employees on Facebook. We’ve explored how that can be used for internal communications/engagement objectives, and have discovered that there’s real potential – though many prefer to keep their “personal” and “professional” lives separate (I call it the “do I want my boss to see me in my bathing suit?” problem.) If Facebook can solve this – and the reports from last week that they’re developing a way for users to have dual profiles suggests they’re trying – FB’s value for networking will increase considerably.

  5. I’m in my 40′s. I kick the tires or test drive just about everything that comes down the technology pike. Be it Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. You need to go where the conversation is and I’m not just saying “conversation” to sound “hip to the scene”. Who knows, Facebook may be a has been in a few years. When I first got on the Internet Compuserve and AOL were the place to be or even newsgroups. Even when I’m “retired” I hope I am still thinking like a kid and always open to exploring and keeping an open mind to new ways of doing things. If companies are going to stay relevant they will always have to work at thinking like young people. It’s just like exercise. When you are young it may be easier but it becomes a necessity as time goes on.

  6. I’m in my 40′s. I kick the tires or test drive just about everything that comes down the technology pike. Be it Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. You need to go where the conversation is and I’m not just saying “conversation” to sound “hip to the scene”. Who knows, Facebook may be a has been in a few years. When I first got on the Internet Compuserve and AOL were the place to be or even newsgroups. Even when I’m “retired” I hope I am still thinking like a kid and always open to exploring and keeping an open mind to new ways of doing things. If companies are going to stay relevant they will always have to work at thinking like young people. It’s just like exercise. When you are young it may be easier but it becomes a necessity as time goes on.

  7. All my nieces and nephews are my friends on facebook. I have business assocatiates, my family, people I think are cool, and even some of my daughter’s friends on my facebook. No one has said that I am stupid, I think that it shows that you are a well rounded individual with a family and friends. Kinda, like, normal.

  8. All my nieces and nephews are my friends on facebook. I have business assocatiates, my family, people I think are cool, and even some of my daughter’s friends on my facebook. No one has said that I am stupid, I think that it shows that you are a well rounded individual with a family and friends. Kinda, like, normal.

  9. My favorite part about all this “laughing” is that these college kids were definitely not around when I first joined Facebook in 2004. They were little children in high school still using (ick) MySpace. Sure, FB may have been built for college kids, but what did we expect Zuckerberg and crew to do – make our accounts inactive on graduation day? Hardly. Web apps, like most people, grow up. Business will, too, eventually, as more and more people realize that the network is what’s important, not the specific tools and games and apps provided. People. Connection. Facebook’s doing that better than pretty much anyone right now, and until someone comes along and makes it even easier to connect with your friends, colleagues, family, readers, elected officials, favorite celebrities, etc., it will be the go-to place for people of all ages, who, by and large, are pretty proficient at weeding through the drunken escapades of the latest crop of underage debauchees to find something meaningful and important in communities that they create.

  10. My favorite part about all this “laughing” is that these college kids were definitely not around when I first joined Facebook in 2004. They were little children in high school still using (ick) MySpace. Sure, FB may have been built for college kids, but what did we expect Zuckerberg and crew to do – make our accounts inactive on graduation day? Hardly. Web apps, like most people, grow up. Business will, too, eventually, as more and more people realize that the network is what’s important, not the specific tools and games and apps provided. People. Connection. Facebook’s doing that better than pretty much anyone right now, and until someone comes along and makes it even easier to connect with your friends, colleagues, family, readers, elected officials, favorite celebrities, etc., it will be the go-to place for people of all ages, who, by and large, are pretty proficient at weeding through the drunken escapades of the latest crop of underage debauchees to find something meaningful and important in communities that they create.

  11. I think Myths #2 & #4 depend a lot on the business/industry. Probably true for tech, not so sure about others like medicine, law, etc.

  12. This is just another form of the age old elitism that you face when there are any two groups delineated by any characteristics. This one though, is a bit more offensive to me than most.

    Anyone who is really making this distinction and “laughing at the silly old people who are trying to be in on the fun,” are really only fooling themselves. And, furthermore, proving that they really don’t understand the concepts that drive social networking.

    They’re fooling themselves because they’re only, at most, four years removed from being the very object of their own derision. They’re proving their ignorance by assuming that they are the only people with a need for this type of network.

    I’m inclined to disbelieve that most college kids, using facebook, are laughing at the rest of us. I’m more inclined to think that this is the voice of an ignorant elitist minority.

    So, come on folks, let go of your socially-crippling elitism and join the rest of us. It’s a lot more fun on this side.

  13. This is just another form of the age old elitism that you face when there are any two groups delineated by any characteristics. This one though, is a bit more offensive to me than most.

    Anyone who is really making this distinction and “laughing at the silly old people who are trying to be in on the fun,” are really only fooling themselves. And, furthermore, proving that they really don’t understand the concepts that drive social networking.

    They’re fooling themselves because they’re only, at most, four years removed from being the very object of their own derision. They’re proving their ignorance by assuming that they are the only people with a need for this type of network.

    I’m inclined to disbelieve that most college kids, using facebook, are laughing at the rest of us. I’m more inclined to think that this is the voice of an ignorant elitist minority.

    So, come on folks, let go of your socially-crippling elitism and join the rest of us. It’s a lot more fun on this side.

  14. The adoption of Facebook by the average individual is very new and trendy, but more and more people will experience the negatives that go along with these platforms and usage of Facebook will be affected. Whether its that embarassing pic that is now available for everyone you know (including business associates) or a video of someone drinking in their work uniform.

  15. The adoption of Facebook by the average individual is very new and trendy, but more and more people will experience the negatives that go along with these platforms and usage of Facebook will be affected. Whether its that embarassing pic that is now available for everyone you know (including business associates) or a video of someone drinking in their work uniform.

  16. I tend to agree with PXLated’s comment; it depends on the industry. I guess it’s because I’m a stodgy, middle-aged lawyer, but I do not think that the mix of business and personal on FaceBook makes for the best business marketing tool for the professional, like the doctor or the lawyer. I like LinkedIn’s approach to things, even though the site is not as feature-rich as FaceBook, as is more appropriate to networking for my type of business. That said, I don’t think college students are necessarily laughing about how working people are using the site; that’s a bit of a stretch. You know more about FaceBook, Bob, but for now, I just think LinkedIn does it better. I wrote on this in my legal tech blog at

    http://lawtech.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/linkedin-business-networking/

    As this industry is always changing, however, I may well change my mind. Who knows what FaceBook will be doing in 6 months? We will just have to see.

  17. I tend to agree with PXLated’s comment; it depends on the industry. I guess it’s because I’m a stodgy, middle-aged lawyer, but I do not think that the mix of business and personal on FaceBook makes for the best business marketing tool for the professional, like the doctor or the lawyer. I like LinkedIn’s approach to things, even though the site is not as feature-rich as FaceBook, as is more appropriate to networking for my type of business. That said, I don’t think college students are necessarily laughing about how working people are using the site; that’s a bit of a stretch. You know more about FaceBook, Bob, but for now, I just think LinkedIn does it better. I wrote on this in my legal tech blog at

    http://lawtech.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/linkedin-business-networking/

    As this industry is always changing, however, I may well change my mind. Who knows what FaceBook will be doing in 6 months? We will just have to see.

  18. Robert: With all due respect, I think doing business on Facebook is so easy for you because you are already an established personality and comfortable with sharing private matters freely. It’s what people expect, and you don’t have to worry about offending anyone — you can easily find other contacts if someone is put off by, like David Berger pointed out, you in your bathing suit. (Or in your birthday suit, as the case may be: http://flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/101847348/in/set-72057594067080332/) You have personally challenged a lot of the traditions of business, which is awesome, but I think your reputation makes that easier.

    I think I can safely say that you probably did some things in college that, if you’d had Facebook then and uploaded record of the events, you’d not want potential clients or employers to see. No?

  19. Robert: With all due respect, I think doing business on Facebook is so easy for you because you are already an established personality and comfortable with sharing private matters freely. It’s what people expect, and you don’t have to worry about offending anyone — you can easily find other contacts if someone is put off by, like David Berger pointed out, you in your bathing suit. (Or in your birthday suit, as the case may be: http://flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/101847348/in/set-72057594067080332/) You have personally challenged a lot of the traditions of business, which is awesome, but I think your reputation makes that easier.

    I think I can safely say that you probably did some things in college that, if you’d had Facebook then and uploaded record of the events, you’d not want potential clients or employers to see. No?

  20. Matt: in college I voted for Ronald Reagan and took a picture of him that’s still hanging in the Republican Headquarters in San Jose. I’m not sure I want everyone to know about THAT! :-)

    But, seriously, you just need to learn how to use the privacy features in Facebook. Believe me, if I had something inside Facebook that I didn’t want you to see you wouldn’t be able to see it.

  21. Matt: in college I voted for Ronald Reagan and took a picture of him that’s still hanging in the Republican Headquarters in San Jose. I’m not sure I want everyone to know about THAT! :-)

    But, seriously, you just need to learn how to use the privacy features in Facebook. Believe me, if I had something inside Facebook that I didn’t want you to see you wouldn’t be able to see it.

  22. I’m using Facebook for business networking. Or maybe I should say I use it to network with people in my industry. I think it works really well. In Montreal, it is becoming quite rare that people I meet do not have a Facebook account. This makes networking easier.

    Click on my name for my blog post wrap-up on how it works well for me.

  23. I’m using Facebook for business networking. Or maybe I should say I use it to network with people in my industry. I think it works really well. In Montreal, it is becoming quite rare that people I meet do not have a Facebook account. This makes networking easier.

    Click on my name for my blog post wrap-up on how it works well for me.

  24. I must really be polluting Facebook at my age. But I try every tech tool I can get my hands on, and Facebook seems to be the easiest one for me to use to keep in touch with people. Now I must admit I am not a lawyer, but my daughter is, and she uses Facebook for certain things — like finding a recommendation for a lawyer in another country, for example. Admittedly LinkedIn is a better professional networking tool in some ways, but it seems very old school to me.

  25. I must really be polluting Facebook at my age. But I try every tech tool I can get my hands on, and Facebook seems to be the easiest one for me to use to keep in touch with people. Now I must admit I am not a lawyer, but my daughter is, and she uses Facebook for certain things — like finding a recommendation for a lawyer in another country, for example. Admittedly LinkedIn is a better professional networking tool in some ways, but it seems very old school to me.

  26. I’m a college student, who signed up for Facebook as a first-year student, in September of 2005. I use a screen reader because I’m blind, so it took a while for me to feel comfortable with the layout of Facebook. But I personally don’t mind older adults who are in business, stay-at-home moms, homeless, retired, whatever, using Facebook. What I do mind is the assumption that Facebook should be designed perfectly for these other purposes.

    There can, and I think should, be room for multiple types of users. I’m just not totally sure how that will happen. I think it’s eventually going to be like what we experience off line.

    When I go out for coffee with my friends, you don’t expect me to act like I’m an executive, nor do I expect you to act like a student. But the WiFi at the coffee shop, and the comfortable chairs with outlets are useful to bothe of us.

  27. I’m a college student, who signed up for Facebook as a first-year student, in September of 2005. I use a screen reader because I’m blind, so it took a while for me to feel comfortable with the layout of Facebook. But I personally don’t mind older adults who are in business, stay-at-home moms, homeless, retired, whatever, using Facebook. What I do mind is the assumption that Facebook should be designed perfectly for these other purposes.

    There can, and I think should, be room for multiple types of users. I’m just not totally sure how that will happen. I think it’s eventually going to be like what we experience off line.

    When I go out for coffee with my friends, you don’t expect me to act like I’m an executive, nor do I expect you to act like a student. But the WiFi at the coffee shop, and the comfortable chairs with outlets are useful to bothe of us.

  28. It’s the combination of soul-stripping platforms like facebook and archives like the waybackmachine that may become the sticking point in the next years.

    Do you want to document your lack of restraint over the past years with some photos where you were significant slimmer? A former bad habit like smoking?
    Or a more liberal approach to, emm, nudism?

    Or how are you going to explain a potential client or employer, why you found it necessary to push some entries to be deleted a few years ago?

    Something to hide?

  29. It’s the combination of soul-stripping platforms like facebook and archives like the waybackmachine that may become the sticking point in the next years.

    Do you want to document your lack of restraint over the past years with some photos where you were significant slimmer? A former bad habit like smoking?
    Or a more liberal approach to, emm, nudism?

    Or how are you going to explain a potential client or employer, why you found it necessary to push some entries to be deleted a few years ago?

    Something to hide?

  30. Recently, a number of my “real friends” (folks I know from places other than the web) joined Facebook, en masse. The quote, “you can take the people out of Myspace, but you can’t take the Myspace out of the people” suddenly became crystal clear.

    Some people see all of this (getting online for any reason) as “play” and that may never change for some. It has been interesting to watch some of them become really active on FB while others just goof around in that Myspace way that still almost makes me physically ill.

    I’ve always been a “legit” user. Meaning, no fake or multiple accounts / names. Early on (1996) I met people online that became business partners and friends. Because of this, I take it seriously.

    There’s nothing wrong with either end of that spectrum. Opinion articles? I rarely take those very seriously–unless I’m doing the writing! :-)

  31. Recently, a number of my “real friends” (folks I know from places other than the web) joined Facebook, en masse. The quote, “you can take the people out of Myspace, but you can’t take the Myspace out of the people” suddenly became crystal clear.

    Some people see all of this (getting online for any reason) as “play” and that may never change for some. It has been interesting to watch some of them become really active on FB while others just goof around in that Myspace way that still almost makes me physically ill.

    I’ve always been a “legit” user. Meaning, no fake or multiple accounts / names. Early on (1996) I met people online that became business partners and friends. Because of this, I take it seriously.

    There’s nothing wrong with either end of that spectrum. Opinion articles? I rarely take those very seriously–unless I’m doing the writing! :-)

  32. I still think that the social networking platforms are way overrated as a way to business network.

    The geeks love it, and it probably works for us. But the general population wont ever get it IMHO.

  33. I still think that the social networking platforms are way overrated as a way to business network.

    The geeks love it, and it probably works for us. But the general population wont ever get it IMHO.

  34. Robert,

    Thanks for voting for my app in the Facebook AppNite contest. Wanted to drop the link here for your readers to use: apps.facebook.com/my-resume

    As you noted, the myths that business networking can’t be done on a platform like Facebook will prove to be an afterthought over time. I hope my app will help in that evolution…

    joe

  35. Robert,

    Thanks for voting for my app in the Facebook AppNite contest. Wanted to drop the link here for your readers to use: apps.facebook.com/my-resume

    As you noted, the myths that business networking can’t be done on a platform like Facebook will prove to be an afterthought over time. I hope my app will help in that evolution…

    joe

  36. “old” people ROCK! Ya’ll should join facebook, screw what all the students say! (even though I am one!)

  37. “old” people ROCK! Ya’ll should join facebook, screw what all the students say! (even though I am one!)

  38. [...] How will we know that the discovery phase of Social Networking is over? When we stop seeing these kinds of stupid rifts. Do we argue about whether it’s young or old or cool or smart to use a business card? No, I had them in college. I have them now. Never even thought of arguing about that. Someday we’ll just use Facebook and we’ll all get along. Until then, phhhhhhhhbbbbbttttttt to all you college students who think I’m ruining Facebook!Comments [...]

  39. The graying of Facebook

    While Facebook was set up initially just for college students, the user base is definitely getting older as reported by the New York Times. I have expressed my views in the past why social networking websites set up just for

  40. The question at this juncture is not if facebook or not to facebook. The question is what now? We are now at a network juncture of a binary state. MySpace vs. facebook. Right now I would have to say that facebook is winning the battle, but I think they will lose the war. facebook has gotten cocky and forgotten what a sociall network is all about. The lousy customer service and disabling accounts towards people who they “don’t like” will in the end hurt facebook’s reputation. A little marketing for an inferior new platform will go a long way because people are pissed. No one likes being thrown out of a country club.

  41. The question at this juncture is not if facebook or not to facebook. The question is what now? We are now at a network juncture of a binary state. MySpace vs. facebook. Right now I would have to say that facebook is winning the battle, but I think they will lose the war. facebook has gotten cocky and forgotten what a sociall network is all about. The lousy customer service and disabling accounts towards people who they “don’t like” will in the end hurt facebook’s reputation. A little marketing for an inferior new platform will go a long way because people are pissed. No one likes being thrown out of a country club.