Chris Johnson: Now that Grandma's on Facebook ...

March 30, 2014 

One of the most tiring things to keep up with in the communications industry these days is -- duh -- how folks communicate.

There was a time when it was quite simple. There was that black and white newspaper with maybe one photo every now and then of something important like the Titanic or little Abe Lincoln taking first place at the Springfield spelling bee. Then there were telegraph wires, phone lines, radios and television sets. I hear they've even got phones that are cordless now! Can you believe that?

But all those changes evolved rather slowly compared to life in the computer age -- more specifically the internet age and even more specifically the social media age. That's right, social media isn't just for congressmen to send dirty pictures of their private parts; it's actually how most folks communicate these days. Granted, that may explain why people seem more ignorant these days as they pass along false Facebook memes faster than beauty parlor gossip, but it's here to stay nonetheless.

What does change, however, is which social media tool the young folks are using at the moment. From MySpace to Facebook, from Twitter to Snapchat and from Pinterest to Instagram, it seems the younger crowd is always bouncing to the next new thing.

Why? Is it because the new social media platform offers something completely different than the other?

Sometimes, but mostly it's because they're fleeing us old folks. And by "old" I mean anyone over 23.

With more than a billion users, Facebook clearly rules the universe. It hogs the vast majority of social media ad share and is integrated with so many media and other websites that it simply makes your life easier to have a Facebook account whether or not you feel like fending off 200 invites to play Candy Crush or Possum Drop. (I invented that last one, and you'll be getting your invite from me soon.)

But the fact that it is so ubiquitous is exactly why kids don't like Facebook as much these days. How cool can something be if Grandma, Aunt Ethel and Uncle Joe are on it? Sure, it's a great way to keep in touch with

Grandma -- until she comments on your spring break photo: "You shouldn't be showing off all that skin. Boys will get the wrong idea. And I hope that's apple juice in that red cup!" Then you scroll down to Aunt Ethel's photo of the doily she knitted just for you and Uncle Joe's status update about the Kenyan socialist antichrist, and it's enough to make teenagers do something as drastic as logging off and reading a book.

While speaking to a group of high school juniors and seniors a couple weeks ago, I asked them if they used Facebook. They nearly vomited on me. I had a similar experience a week later while working with dozens of Ohio State University students on a volunteer project. Most of them had Facebook accounts but preferred to use Instagram where you simply post photos with just a couple of #hastags instead of coherent statements with proper grammar.

After all, the whole point of finding new social media outlets is to get away from grammar … and Grandpa.

-- Connect with Chris Johnson at

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