What do you think is the main motive of the old people using social media? Enjoyment, engaging in social contact, to provide and receive social support, send good morning messages in family groups and perhaps video calling their grandchildren once in a while.
Generally, people use WhatsApp to facilitate themselves with messaging and voice calling, to make the world a smaller place. But unlike others, for my grandmother it is a weapon, take it to be a mixture of a club and a machete. We were at a family gathering, sitting around chewing chicken wings and sipping our favorite soda and I was scudding across everyone’s head and ears with one of my favorite hobbies- web series and apparently, enthralling my audience(consisting of my uncles, aunts, few older siblings) when the phone lights up. There was a message. It was from grandma, who happens to be sitting just 3.7 meters north east from me. She was now thoroughly on her phone, pretending to be on another call. I pick up my phone and it says, “Can you shut up already, you are the only one speaking and that too for hours now. No one is interested. And also- Stop eating like a wolf. Now”! The recipient (mostly me) though diminutive, has roles to play in such situations- a role to veil her reaction. Those who have been long in the receiving end tend to pick up a few tricks on how to keep a poker face and not be ruffled by granny’s rudeness.
Things were not always this intimidating. The main barrier for old people initially entering online network is that novices like themselves are always in need of an internet savvy mentor to get acquainted with the new found world. There was a time when I was the master. She relied on me to learn the meaning of each emoji. Once in our family group the message of our distant relative’s death was shared. You know the face with tears of joy emoji, features a jovial face laughing. Well, she mistook it to mean a loudly crying face as if wretchedly wailing, and kept sending rows of the same emoji, until I came and told her the mishap she was tying herself up in. But hey, we all need some help now and then. She asked me once to help her with her profile picture and how she wanted it to be a cartoon character. I did it for her. Now that meant, she flexing about her granddaughter being the magician, who should help her other friends also to change their profile pictures.
Earlier her achievements were only limited to figuring out what channel Netflix was, viewing you’re her own Facebook profile to increase self-esteem, typing more than a word in a single minute, and letting go of the impulse to pass on messages, that was hard wired within her( activated reward centers in her brain, even before she had sent it).
She made her way through. She aspired, perspired and inspired the use of social media, setting new standards for us youngsters to follow. However, current research has highlighted the potential for clinical practice and positive consequences of social media participation, how it advances health-related knowledge on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions and disorders. In terms of meaningful social exchange, social media can be used as a means to provide and receive social support, overcome loneliness as well as to enhance feelings of control and self-efficacy. Until then, good luck with your grandparents!