Many senior citizens are familiar with social media as a place to connect with friends and family. In fact, seniors are one of the fastest growing user groups of social media; 40 percent of seniors use social media now compared to just five percent 10 years ago.

With one in four adults 65 and up struggling with social isolation, social media can be a useful tool for staying in touch with the people you care about and can help mitigate the dangerous feelings of loneliness in older adults. You can even meet new people on social media, expanding your social circles and learning new skills. And social interaction seems to be one of the primary reasons for social media use in older adults, with Facebook as the most popular platform for seniors.

But many adults don’t understand how to control what comes across their feeds. Social media can also be a huge source of misinformation, and there are specific social media scams and fraudulent activities to be aware of. In this article, we’ll discuss some aspects of social media that senior citizens should be aware of in order to maximize their positive experience on social networks, especially Facebook.

A grandmother and granddaughter use a tablet together

 

How to control your news feed

Since Facebook is the most popular social media platform for seniors, it’s important to learn how to control what you see in your news feed. On Facebook, the news feed is the default view you will see when you login to the site, and often contains updates from your family, friends, and any businesses you follow. Facebook defaults to sharing updates from the people, places, and things that you care about, including any businesses you have followed or groups you have joined. You may also be served up content that Facebook thinks you’ll be interested in or ads by companies that have paid to appear in your news feed.

The types of posts you will see are influenced by how many likes, comments, or reactions are received – especially those given by the people you care about and who you are connected with on Facebook. The platform may show you posts where a family member has commented on another friend’s photo or a friend reacting to a news article. You may even see a friend commenting on a post for a page that you don’t follow or on the page of someone that you don’t know.

If you don’t like this setup, you can control what appears in your Facebook feed by selecting favorites, unfollowing any people or groups you no longer want to be connected to, or reconnected with people you unfollowed before. You can also temporarily “snooze” people, pages, or groups that you want to take a break from.

Selecting favorites

If you decide to favorite people, pages, or groups on Facebook, these friends will be prioritized and shown at the beginning and more frequently on your news feed. Facebook uses an algorithm to automatically select the people it thinks you want to see first based on past activity or commonalities on the social media network. But, by customizing favorites yourself, you can make sure you see exactly what you want to see. You can mark up to 30 friends or pages as your favorites.

Unfollowing

If a certain Facebook page no longer interests you, or you would like to disconnect from a friend, you can unfollow them. By doing this, you clear their posts from your news feed and will not receive future posts from them.

Reconnecting

Want to follow someone that you previously unfollowed? Facebook makes it easy to refollow and have these people or pages appear in your news feed again.

Snoozing

If you don’t want to unfollow someone, but just want to hear or see less from them temporarily, Facebook allows you to “snooze” them for 30 days. Once the snooze ends, they will reappear in your feed. You can always re-snooze them if necessary, or decide to unfollow them if you prefer.

To customize your Facebook news feed, select the drop-down arrow on the upper right-hand side of your Facebook screen. Scroll down to click on “News feed Preferences.”

 

 

A News Feed Preferences screen will pop up, giving you options to favorite, unfollow, reconnect, or snooze.

 

 

You can also customize the types of ads you receive – to an extent. If you don’t like a particular company, you can have Facebook hide all ads from that advertiser. You can also let Facebook know if a certain ad isn’t relevant to you. Additionally, you can choose to see fewer types of ads around a topic, like ads around social issues, alcohol, or pets. Finally, you can manage the types of data that Facebook uses to show you ads.

To customize your ads, select the drop-down arrow on the upper right-hand side of your Facebook screen. Then, select “Settings and Privacy.” From there, choose “Settings.”

 

 

Then, scroll down to select “Ads.”

 

 

From there, you can set up the types of ads you will receive. Note that this will not impact the amount of ads you receive, only the type. Customize the advertisers you’re willing to receive ads from, as well as the ad topics.

Customizing your news feed is possible on whatever social media app or platform you prefer. See how to customize your Twitter feed and Instagram feed. You have the power to make your social media experience what you want, so keep that in mind and be sure to follow topics, groups, and organizations that you’re interested in.

A senior citizen uses a keyboard to write a message on social media

 

Misinformation on social media

As the most popular social media platform in use today, with 2.7 billion active monthly users, Facebook is also the most popular platform for the spread of misinformation and propaganda according to a report from the University of Oxford. And since over 40% of adults use Facebook as a news source, it’s important to be on the watch for misinformation.

It often comes down to digital literacy and learning how to be more tech savvy. Both older and young adults are susceptible to sharing misinformation online, and on a website like Facebook, we often see news shared in our news feed by people we trust, like friends and family. It’s a good idea to practice healthy skepticism about any information you read online, even if it was shared by a close friend or family member. To learn more about misinformation online, check out organizations like Senior Planet, who provide multiple courses designed to help seniors learn about technology. They even have a handout to help you spot fake news.

Senior man shows his daughter something funny on social media

 

Facebook scams

Facebook makes it easy for you to connect with almost anyone in the world, so there are some precautions to take in order to protect yourself from fraud and scams. Some common scams that target senior citizens on social media include romance scams and the “grandparent scam”, where a criminal pretends to be a relative like a child or grandchild in need of immediate financial assistance. In both cases, scammers are impersonating someone in order to get you to trust them.

Here are some tips to protect yourself from scams on social media:

  • Avoid taking immediate action. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into sending money to anyone – even if it is someone you love. If a relative is in danger, call them or verify it with other family members first.
  • Be careful if you start a relationship, whether friendly or romantic, with someone online, especially if they profess love too quickly or ask you for money.
  • Be wary of clickbait articles – they may take you to untrustworthy websites.
  • Be careful about sharing any information related to your location, especially if you have gone on vacation and are away from home.
  • Evaluate your public sharing settings. You may decide it’s a good idea to only share your posts with friends and family, instead of the general public on Facebook. You can set up your privacy settings for Facebook here.

When you customize your social media experience and take steps to recognize misinformation and scams, you can improve your social media experience and get more of what you joined for in the first place: your friends and family.

Want other ways to improve your digital literacy? Visit our guide to the internet for seniors today.

Kirsten Queen is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber. Since she started writing professionally, Kirsten has dabbled in nonprofit grant writing and communications, social media marketing, and now writes content about life with technology. In her free time, Kirsten likes to cook, garden, and hike in the mountains of Colorado. Her name rhymes with first, not cheer.