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Impacts of social media on older people

Published : Sunday, 24 September, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 382
Matiur Rahman

Impacts of social media on older people

Impacts of social media on older people

Loneliness and social isolation are common challenges faced by older individuals. Social media can help alleviate these feelings by providing a virtual space for interaction. Whether through messaging apps or video calls, older people can maintain a sense of connectedness even when physical distance separates them from loved ones.

The advent of social media has transformed the way we communicate, connect, and share information. While the younger generation has widely embraced it, its impact on older individuals has been a subject of growing interest. In a country like Bangladesh, where traditional values and close-knit communities have long been the norm, the integration of social media into the lives of older people represents a significant cultural shift.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube have become integral parts of modern life in Bangladesh. The proliferation of smartphones and affordable internet access has enabled people of all ages to engage with these platforms. While young people in urban areas have quickly adopted social media, its influence is increasingly spreading to rural and older demographics. This shift has far-reaching consequences for how older individuals in Bangladesh connect with others and access information.

One of the most significant advantages of social media for older people is the opportunity for social connection. In a society where traditional social gatherings often revolve around family and close-knit communities, social media can extend one's social network beyond geographical boundaries. Older individuals can reconnect with long-lost friends, stay in touch with relatives abroad, and engage in online communities that share their interests.

Social media is a valuable information source for older individuals in Bangladesh. News updates, health tips, and educational resources are available on various platforms. This enables older people to stay informed about current events, health issues, and other essential topics, enhancing their overall knowledge and well-being.

Loneliness and social isolation are common challenges faced by older individuals. Social media can help alleviate these feelings by providing a virtual space for interaction. Whether through messaging apps or video calls, older people can maintain a sense of connectedness even when physical distance separates them from loved ones.

Bangladesh has a rich cultural heritage, and social media allows older individuals to engage in cultural preservation and transmission. They can share traditional recipes, stories, and customs with younger generations, ensuring the country's enduring cultural legacy.

While social media can offer numerous benefits, older individuals often face challenges related to digital literacy. Many older adults may struggle to navigate these platforms, leading to frustration and exclusion. Bridging the digital divide through education and training programs is essential to empower more seniors in this digital age.

Privacy is a significant concern for older individuals on social media. Many are unaware of how to protect their personal information or recognise potential risks, such as online scams and identity theft. Education on online safety is crucial to address these concerns.

Paradoxically, excessive use of social media can lead to social isolation for some older individuals. Spending too much time online may detract from face-to-face interactions, potentially exacerbating loneliness rather than alleviating it.

There can be a generational gap in understanding and using social media. This gap may lead to misunderstandings or conflicts between older and younger family members with different online communication and privacy expectations.

Like anyone else, older individuals can be targets of online harassment or cyberbullying. It is vital to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to protect themselves from such situations.

Efforts to bridge the generational gap in social media usage among older individuals in Bangladesh are crucial. Here are some strategies and initiatives that can help:

Government agencies, NGOs, and community organisations can collaborate to offer digital literacy programs specifically designed for older adults. These programs should cover basic computer skills, internet safety, and social media usage.

Encouraging inter-generational learning experiences can be highly beneficial. Younger family members can teach their elders about social media and digital tools, fostering a sense of togetherness and mutual support.

Organising online safety and privacy workshops can empower older individuals to protect themselves from potential risks. These workshops should cover topics such as recognising phishing attempts, setting strong passwords, and using privacy settings effectively.

Online communities tailored to older individuals can provide a safe and welcoming space for them to engage with peers. These communities can focus on shared interests, such as hobbies, health concerns, or cultural activities.

The government can promote digital inclusion by incentivising tech companies to develop user-friendly interfaces for older adults and subsidising internet access for low-income seniors.

Families can actively involve older members in their online activities, encouraging them to participate in family chats and share the joy of virtual celebrations and gatherings.

Social media has the potential to bridge generational divides and enhance the lives of older individuals in Bangladesh by providing social connections, information access, and opportunities for cultural preservation.

However, addressing their challenges is essential to fully realise these benefits, such as digital literacy, privacy concerns, and the risk of social isolation. By implementing targeted initiatives and fostering a culture of inter-generational support, Bangladesh can harness social media's power to enrich all its citizens' lives, regardless of age.

The writer is a researcher and development worker

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