This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Multiple Generations On Social Media Are Major Source Of User Frustration

How To Deal With The Fact Everyone Is On Social Media, Including Your Nan
three generation family - social media
franckreporter via Getty Images
three generation family - social media

Ever gone to check a Facebook friend request only to find out it's from your nan? Or, at the other end of the spectrum, your little cousin who now won't stop bombarding you with Candy Crush requests?

Whether you're a social media lover or hater, there's no use denying the widespread impact it has had on the way people connect and communicate. It's no longer restricted to the tech-savvy, either.

As the influence of social media continues to grow, different generations are signing up (or growing up, and taking their social media accounts with them), meaning now your 'friends' and followers could be a melting pot of generations, each bringing with them vastly different ideals, opinions, and, tellingly, levels of social media proficiency.

So how has the landscape of social media changed now it's no longer for those who 'get it'?

"The current era of online interaction is one of the first times in a long time where new users interact with older users, and by 'older' I mean users with quite a lot of experience," Dr Glen Fuller of the News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Quite often you'll see newer users making errors that older users think are obvious. On the other hand, older, more experienced users interact with each other in a way that newer users find bewildering.

"While it's not a new problem, the scale of the problem is relatively new."

Fuller says the differing levels of experience brought to each platform can prove frustrating for all involved. While you really don't want to see yet another picture of Aunty Glenda's cats, she might be equally confused as to why you, her beloved niece/nephew, haven't 'liked' them. Fuller says a lot of this comes down to newer users understanding the concept of audience.

"One of the good things about the internet is you can find a group of people who will like anything you like," Fuller told HuffPost Austraila.

"Which means if you want to talk about certain things, you can find the audience to do that with. Where the difficulty lies is you actually need to find that audience -- you can't just assume because you have a Twitter account you have an audience who is going to listen to everything you say.

"You also can't expect too much of the platform by assuming you are going to get interaction start away. Unless you're a massive celebrity, of course, in which case it's a completely different scenario."

Speaking of celebrity, Dr Tama Leaver of the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts at Curtin University says one of the biggest cross-generational confusions on social media is none other than, you guessed it, the selfie.

Selfies about to be LIT! 💡Today on my app I talk about the perfect selfie lighting! The secret to my selfies

A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Kim Kardashian, selfie queen.

"Opinions on selfies usually comes down to a generation thing," Leaver told HuffPost Australia. "The younger generations tend to view selfies as self-empowering, or that they are sharing positive body images with each other.

"On the other end you have accusations of narcissism and ridiculous self indulgence. In actual fact, both are probably true from from each perspective.

"But both need to be aware of the platform they are using and what that means. Facebook is a good example. With something like 1.59 billion users, we're talking about a full spectrum of generations on there.

"It’s a sharing ground everyone will see. Myself, knowing my grandparents are looking at my Facebook account makes me much less likely to share certain things. I think this is why services such as Snapchat are popular, for that exact reason."

More experienced users are also advised to ease up on the judgment, already, and show a little patience as newer inductees learn the ropes. After all, ever checked out your very first profile picture? If it's something you'd be thrilled to still be using now, then props to you. But more often than not, it will make you cringe. (What were you thinking?)

"There are so many weird conversations on Facebook that really highlight generational differences," Leaver said. "Though you'll also see cultural differences as well as the level of technical ability coming into play.

"One of the most obvious examples of this is those posts you can share, such as 'I'm posting this Facebook so I’m protecting my privacy settings,' or the equivalent.

"For more experienced users, it's frustrating. They're thinking: 'this achieves nothing, why are you doing this again?' But that's just a classic example of the levels of technical literacy differing."

According to Leaver, the best thing to do is to get savvy with filters -- whether that means employing them yourself or showing Aunty Glenda how to join the page Cat Lovers Anonymous.

"Some people are really good at filtering. They are choosing what they want to see, and communicating their own posts to an interested audience," Leaver said.

"I think people who react most strongly [to seeing things they don't like on social media] are the ones who don’t understand they can tweak the system, both in terms of what you receive, and who sees what you share."

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