All A-Twitter Over New Technology
Seniors are embracing Facebook and Twitter to find old friends and make new ones.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the July 2009 issue of Kiplinger's Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.Your grandkids are doing it. Your kids are too, although maybe not as fanatically. We're talking about Facebook and Twitter. We'll try to make sense of these social networking Web sites for you.
Facebook is an online meeting place where you keep in touch with friends and family, reconnect with people from your past and make new acquaintances. Founded in 2004 as an online hangout for college kids, the site has grown to more than 200 million users. A fast-growing segment of users are age 55 and older, according to Inside Facebook, a research site.
Think of Facebook as a personal bulletin board or family newsletter. You can post photos of the grandkids, links to interesting Web sites or a quick note on your weekend in Vegas.
Signing up on www.facebook.com takes a few minutes, and membership is free. You'll need to enter your full name, e-mail address, gender and birthday. To find people from your past -- school chums or colleagues -- it's best to add as much information as you're comfortable sharing. For instance, to find former college classmates, include the name of your school with the class year. Facebook is handy for planning school reunions. Search for the name of your high school, and if an alumni group exists, you can locate ex-classmates.
One way to find people on Facebook is to type in someone's name in the search field. You can then ask the person to be your "friend" and start communicating. You can control who sees your profile, photo, friend list and other personal details.
David Pollak, 62, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., used Facebook to reconnect with several people from childhood. A semi-retired optician, Pollak was introduced to Facebook by one of his daughters. At first he wasn't impressed, but he soon discovered its power to reunite. He found a friend whom he hadn't seen since sixth grade in the Bronx, and soon they became Facebook pals. "Before you knew it, we had this little circle of friends who grew up within ten blocks of each other," says Pollak. "We're actually thinking about having a mini-reunion."
Become a Twitterer and Tweet
With Twitter, you tell people what you're doing in 140 characters or less. Go to the Twitter Web site (www.twitter.com) and register for free. Then type in a "tweet," or message -- something as profound as "My breakfast oatmeal sure tastes good." Twitter users who have signed up as "followers" of your tweets will automatically see your posts when they log in.
Unless you're an exhibitionist, there's probably no good reason to broadcast your (mostly) trivial day-to-day activities to the world. But Twitter is handy for finding like-minded individuals. Let's say you go to a movie the night it opens. The next day you want to find out what other Twitter users think of the film. By entering the movie's title in Twitter's search field, you can find others' comments about the film.
Another benefit: You can sign up for tweets from many news organizations, government agencies and nonprofits, such as Kiplinger, the White House and AARP. Often tweets will include links that provide more information.
If you're still working, you can set up a Twitter account for professional reasons. You can provide links to your own Web site or to information about yourself. You can also network with contacts.
Richard Grimes, president of Assisted Living Federation of America, tweets to share information with people who care for the elderly. In a recent e-mail to the federation's executive members, he wrote that Twitter is "about extending one's reach with useful information to consumers ('followers') through links to relevant Web sites and blogs."
Be wary who you follow on Twitter. Many marketers are using the service as an online billboard to peddle products and services. And if you worry about privacy, change your privacy settings so that only people you approve can read your tweets.
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