Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Midlife Apocalypse: Oprah's Plugging Facebook

Here's the joke: Even Barbie's had a Facebook midlife crisis. What do you mean who's Barbie? I mean Mattel's Barbie of course! Has Oprah joined her?

Facebook Midlife Crisis is in the Urban Dictionary also. It's got six thumbs up:

Facebook mid-life crisis
All of the 35-50 year old people that can finally make their own Facebook accounts. They try to reenact what the younger crowd does on Facebook by tagging pics and acting slutty.
A: Dude, your Mom has a Facebook account? She poked me and asked to be her friend. That's weird.
B: Yeah, she is having a Facebook mid-life crisis. (UD)
This is where you make a note to yourself to watch BlogHer Backtalk and answer the question, "Would you friend your child on Facebook?" But first, let's see what Oprah's saying about Facebook. Oprah's over 50. Is Facebook age sliding?

I chuckled reading the following at Twitter.

I checked the story out and it's true. One of the hot topics at Oprah.com right now is "The Face Behind Facebook"
In the new virtual age, social networking sites have taken the world by storm. With 175 million users and counting, Facebook has risen above the rest. In fact, if there were a Facebook nation, it would be the world's 6th largest country!
People around the world are reconnecting with long-lost friends and relatives, uniting on common ground from politics to Chia pets. Every day, half a million people join the social network. (Oprah.com)
You don't say!

Oprah had CEO and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on the show, told her audience "the 24-year-old is reportedly worth close to $1 billion," and then you too can learn Facebook lingo!

I am a member of Facebook, but for a long time I had a page and didn't add friends, upload a real picture, or even visit. I'm active now, but I'm still not keen on all the applications, and that's because I'm getting overwhelmed by more stuff to learn on the Net despite having been online since 1996, back when you could only set up pages if you knew how to hard code HTML.

Also, I laid low online for a while for personal reasons. However, some people avoid Facebook, MySpace, and similar social networks because they have Facebook phobia.

Another reason I avoided Facebook at first was it started as an exclusive site. I wasn't a Harvard student or alum and so the site wasn't open to me. A job forced me to join the site later, had to be on Facebook to connect with certain people. After the job ended, I forgot about the site because I shun elitism and still associated Facebook with that. Not that I have anything against Ivy League schools. My issue was a lingering sense that non-Ivy Leaguers would not be welcomed there, which is not true.

I suppose once Zuckerberg realized Facebook was a goldmine, he shunned elitism as well, opening the site up to more types of groups, the young capitalist.

Being active on the site has benefits such as interaction with people with whom you've lost touch, and it can help you to market a product such as a blog or book, but that wasn't its original purpose. So, you still have to be careful not to spam people. You need to show you want relationships not just a place to hawk your wares. Yet, good information and content is the currency of the World Wide Web; so, if you have nothing to share, you'll be ignored.

There are other reasons people avoid Facebook. Writing her article "Facebook junkie? It must be another midlife crisis," Detroit News Home Life columnist Marney Rich Keenan said:

My daughters set me up with a Facebook account several months ago, but I put off using it until recently. My reticence had nothing to do with the recent flap over ownership of content and everything to do with not wanting to become attached to yet another distraction.
As someone who could make people-watching an avocation, I knew that I would find nirvana in Facebook, that it would hook me in the same way the Bravo channel does when it rolls out another season of "The Real Housewives of New York City." I hate the fact that if I walk by a TV in our house, and it's on, I am glued to it like a magnet. Mindlessly, unwillingly. It's like a drug.
I also worried that I would be consigned to yet another network of people I would feel obligated to correspond with regularly (Read more)
I've felt like her before, like a woman clinging to the rim of a black hole.

Reading about Facebook midlife crises and Oprah promoting Facebook, I thought of Kate Wilder's blog post that I mentioned in "Midlife Coffee with Joni Mitchell." Kate wrote the following at My So-called Midlife:

I feel bad that Facebook, which began as a way for students to connect, is being overrun with boomers like me. It’s bad enough that we’re trying to be our kids’ buds, listening to their music, helicoptering over them so they don’t end up in the “wrong” college and dressing as youthfully as they are; now kids can’t even have their own online community without their parents butting in! ("No, You Can't Be My Friend on Facebook")
And now Oprah's got the Facebook bug? So, you're right Kate: Facebook's being overrun by boomers. And you're right George: It's mainstream now.

Does that mean its coolness must fade? Can't you be older but still hip and fresh?

BTW, there's a "Facebook for Boomers" according to an old Newsweek article, called TBD.com. No, it's not part of Facebook. Robin Wolaner, the woman who started Parenting Magazine started it.

I just wasn't sure—at 50, newly divorced, with two young children I wanted to be around for—that I wanted to be a CEO again. So I spent a year trying to convince myself that this was not a great business idea—or that someone else should be the CEO instead of me. Enter David Markus, who'd been the editor in chief who led Parenting to success. David loved the idea. There was just one thing, I told him: I had a lump. Two doctors had told me it was probably benign, but if it wasn't, I was going to be a breast-cancer patient, not a CEO. (Wolaner writing at Newsweek)
Wolaner has a compelling story, but still I ask, "Have you heard of TBD.com? It's tag line is "a social network for grown-ups." Anyone here a member of Tee Bee Dee?"

What made boomers flock to Facebook instead of her site? Is it that we wanted to keep an eye on our children? Maybe we don't want to be "grown-ups."

But wait! There's more on Oprah's Facebook discoveries:

Though Facebook started out as a network for college students, its appeal has reached users of all ages. "People over the age of 30, that group is actually the fastest-growing group on the site," Mark says. "People are even using it to connect with President Obama. He has the most connections out of anyone on the site—almost 6 million. He was using the service throughout his campaign to give people updates about what was going on with the campaign. Even now that he's in office he's using it to connect with supporters about the different packages he's trying to get through." (Oprah.com)
Oh, I get it. Obama uses Facebook and that's a selling point to everyone, even Oprah. He's the reason boomers are taking over the site.

Tidbit: Even if he'd never run for president and Facebook had never expanded beyond Ivy League members, he and his wife could still have pages there. Both of them graduated from Harvard Law, an accomplishment with the added perk that makes them old school Facebook.

I don't know if Oprah has a personal page at Facebook, but her show has a fan site there, and she posted the link at Oprah.com. When I went to "become a fan of the show," I saw another BlogHer CE at the top of Oprah's fan list, mainly because she's on my friends list as well. So, now I know we both watch Oprah. A while back I also friended Michelle Obama on Facebook, where she has a sweet picture of herself, Sasha, Malia, and her husband, but I doubt I'll be eating dinner at the White House soon. Still, it could be the first place they reveal the name of the the Portuguese Water Dog puppy they're expected to adopt.

So, we boomers thought we were cool and trendy, ahead of the curve with our Facebook pages, MySpace friends, Twitter alliances, Blackberries, iPhones, and recent sign-up to BlogHer Chatter. But the media and younger people are telling us we get no free pass to coolness. Oprah's talking Facebook, and we're just one of the midlife throng.

Cross-posted at Blogher.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL! OK, I'm off to join the old folks' group @ Facebook...