The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Facebook hates old people.

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflMar 12, 2013 4:00 PM

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We've already highlighted how to do research on Twitter; well, the same principle applies to Facebook. From relationships to self esteem to medical diagnosis, Facebook is fertile ground for studies in psychology and anthropology, but without all those pesky human subjects regulations. Here, the researchers searched Facebook for groups related to old people, and (surprise) found that most were anti-elderly ... with one exception.

Facebook as a Site for Negative Age Stereotypes "Ageism has been found to exist throughout a wide variety of societal institutions. Whether it also exists in social networking sites has not been previously considered. To explore this possibility, we conducted a content analysis of each publicly accessible Facebook group that concentrated on older individuals. The site “Descriptions” of the 84 groups, with a total of 25,489 members, were analyzed. The mean age category of the group creators was 20–29; all were younger than 60 years. Consistent with our hypothesis, the Descriptions of all but one of these groups focused on negative age stereotypes. Among these Descriptions, 74% excoriated older individuals, 27% infantilized them, and 37% advocated banning them from public activities, such as shopping. Facebook has the potential to break down barriers between generations; in practice, it may have erected new ones." Bonus quote from the main text: "As predicted, a majority of Facebook group Descriptions about the old focused on negative age stereotypes. This was the case with all but one of our 84 groups. The single exception stated, “Old men with long grey beards are so wise” (http://facebook.com/group.php?gid=349897736643); this group was dedicated to a fictional character (i.e., Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien)."

Photo: flickr/twicepix

Related content: Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: "Old people are useless": representations of aging on the Simpsons.

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