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Ageing and Information and Communication Technologies


Wed 26. 8.  14:00 - 15:30
room FA 203

Ageing, social media and social isolation


Beneito-Montagut, Roser; Beguería, Arantza; Cassán, Nizaiá
Open University of Catalonia, Spain

The percentage of older people living alone has grown in the last decades, and is expected to continue growing. At the same time that the population ages social isolation is emerging as one of the major problems facing society. Social Media (SM), with Facebook and Twitter as its most popular applications, are becoming fundamental to our social lives. One of their main functions is to provide a mobile way to stay in touch with others. There are few studies so far that explore in depth interpersonal interaction processes on SM of the elderly, fewer that take into account the role of emotions in this particular communication process for this specific social group. This paper focuses on the role of emotions and on understanding to what extent and how older people use SM. An ethnographic study of elderly SM usage, conducted in Catalonia during two years (2013-2015), serves as the basis for an in-depth analysis of their social and emotional conduct in everyday life. Understanding how the elderly uses SM could inform the development of policies which foster SM engagement with a view to increase their possibilities for interpersonal relationships, and in turn, reduce social isolation problems. This perspective takes this paper away from simply studying what can or cannot be done online. Our interest is rather on how the elderly integrates the SM into everyday life, how emotions intervene in their social interaction processes and how to improve their emotional well-being.