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Buddying up on Facebook

Some reflections on being the go-to person for older friends and family who need help getting to grips with Facebook

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In the past few years, given friends and family know that I have managed a number of Facebook pages for organisations (including OpenIDEO's page), I've become the go-to person for older friends to get Facebook help.

This means I get frantic calls from my mother at odd hours, after she's posted a comment intended for my brother, to her own timeline. Or another friend who wants to stop Airbnb posting every apartment he's checking out to his Facebook timeline. Someone else wants to know what hashtags do. And elsewhere I'm being asked if there's a way to turn all the annoying ads off – which luckily there is. Other times I notice stuff like my Dad has filled out his profile as Interested In: Men & Women (bless him – what a true humanitarian – I didn't have the heart to tell him this field was actually intended to indicate sexual preference)

What unites these people is that they are all keen to get skilled in new forms of social connection. They've dipped their toes in and are trying to figure out how things work. Some are more willing to make mistakes than others. 

In reflecting on why they come to me with their questions – it seems that it's a matter of trust. They know me – and they trust that I will explain things slowly enough for them to understand. And because I know them offline, I can also offer them tips which might help reflect their own personalities and experiences online. I love seeing it when they gain confidence and bring snippets of their real character to my news feed. I always remind them how forgiving social media is – and that if they make a mistake, it's quickly forgotten – and usually there is a way of deleting stuff if things go really wrong. (more late night phone calls from my mother on this angle) 

I don't think of myself as a mentor for this – but I do like to let older people in my life I'm happy to help. Mainly because I know how much they enjoy checking out what their distant grandkids, friends and relatives are up to – and because we like hearing what's going on for them as well. I guess I see it as about inclusion.

What have you done to make generations beyond your own feel included?  What's been easy and what's been more challenging? What elements like trust and an enabling approach have come into play? Have you stuck to people that you know – or ventured beyond? What differed between the two? 

Keen to give mentoring a whirl during this challenge? Try out our Get Active Mission and share back what you learn. Researching-by-doing is a great way to uncover human-centered insights!


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