When Your Grandfather Joins Facebook

By Pam Robinson

Jan 2, 2009 5:19pm

ABC News On Campus reporter Miles Doran blogs: Something shocked me when I logged on to Facebook recently. I had a friend request from someone whom I never, in a million years, would have expected to be on Facebook: my 77-year-old grandfather. I have become quite used to having family members befriend me on the social networking site – my brother, my cousins, even my mom (who still needs help loading songs onto her iPod and just recently learned how to attach items to an e-mail message) is on Facebook. But there’s something about having my grandfather as a friend on Facebook that hit me as not only a sign of the times, but also a sign of how cool he is. I mean, I don’t think I know anyone else whose grandparents are on Facebook. Sure, maybe he needed a little help getting there: My mom said, “I told him what you told me, that you’re not taken seriously on Facebook until you put a profile picture up.” Not only does he have a profile picture, he’s also got a photo album with pictures from a recent trip to Israel and he’s even started joining groups. These things may seem trivial to any veteran Facebook user, but I was quite impressed with him. “I find the ‘what am I doing now’ thing a little childish,” he told me while he was visiting over the holidays – referring, of course, to Facebook’s "status updates." “Who cares if you’re making spaghetti?” Well, Grandpa, you’ll soon find that many people care if you’re making spaghetti – many older people, in fact. According to Facebook,  its "over 25" demographic is growing faster than any other on the Web site that used to be open only to college students. “Retirement-age people are becoming more tech-savvy and are trying out this Facebook thing that everyone keeps talking about,” says new media consultant Eric Kuhn. My grandpa says he signed up for Facebook because he thought it would be a good way to help promote his personal training business (another story for another time). Finding long-lost friends and relatives wasn’t at the top of his priority list. “I don’t have too many old, old acquaintances on Facebook because most of them have died off,” he says with a resigned chuckle. He does have a few friends, though. Twenty, at last count. One of them is my 19-year-old brother, Travis. And he didn’t come easy. Travis, a freshman at Florida State University, has rejected every single one of my mom’s Facebook friend requests. He says he wants to protect his privacy. When my grandpa began using Facebook, it took several tries and the threat of being cut out of the will before my brother accepted him as a friend. Meanwhile, my grandpa is now learning how to write on people’s walls on the go. He just installed the Facebook application onto his iPhone. I think it sits right next to the "Car Finder" application, which he uses to help him remember where he parked his car. He may be my oldest friend on Facebook, but for someone his age, I think he’s doing all right.

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