Retweet: The value of social media after retirement
Twitter and Meta are awful, but not as bad as you think.
I’m on the couch, in the corner where the cushion is losing its spring. The dog has gone to bed. A message on the TV asks, “Are you still there?”
I don’t know. Am I?
What is this place between my brain and my cramping thumb hovering over my phone? It’s media, but it doesn’t feel social.
Merriam-Webster defines social as an adjective “involving allies” marked by “pleasant companionship.” Its origins are from the Latin socialis, for “living with others.”
We can safely assume Elon Musk hasn’t studied this etymology since taking over Twitter, hmm. But what of it? Despite the shit-stirring, outrage, privacy concerns, trolls, and bots on every social media platform, nearly 5 billion people worldwide use it—240 million are active daily on Twitter alone.
But everyone is leaving the blue bird, you say? Twitter data is no longer public, but one estimate puts the number of recently deactivated accounts at close to a million. That’s 0.46%. So, not everyone—despite its exploding hate-speech and predicted demise.
This is NOT a defense of Twitter
Twitter can be terrible. Social media is regularly awful for teenagers, women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other marginalized groups. A Pew Research study found 4 out of 10 Americans have experienced online harassment.
And it’s not just cyberbullying that makes us feel bad. Filtered photos, curated highlights, and even good news announcements from friends and colleagues can take a toll. Is there anything worse than that “everyone but me” feeling after just a few minutes on Facebook?
And yet we’re still there. Why? Because it has some good qualities too.
Social media and midlife reinvention
I may not miss my job, but I miss the casual interaction with work friends. I miss opportunities for learning and connection that are baked into working with others.
Like it or not, the internet—social media, text, email, and (ugh) Zoom—is how we connect now. Some studies have linked social technology use by older adults to improvements in health and well-being. And, if technology helps us build genuine social relationships, I’m here for it.
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In fact, I’m finding ways to use social media that enhance my midlife reinvention.
Reinspired social media
Facebook groups Whatever you’re interested in, wherever you are in life, there is a group for you. Look for a private group with clear engagement rules and active administrators. In my experience, group members are supportive and pleasant companions—the true definition of social.
Twitter lists One of the myths, I think, of Twitter is that everyone sees the same posts—from the mundane to the hateful. You can curate your feed. Follow who you are interested in and who you trust. Make lists—mine are literary magazines, editors, and authors—that filter out a lot of noise. Use block and mute features. Restrict comments to the people you choose.
Instagram Creators Like Facebook, Instagram is owned by Meta—which isn’t helpful. What once was my favorite place to find content is now in third place. So. Many. Ads. BUT… if you are reinventing your career, building a brand, or looking for an audience, Instagram has many features to support your goals.
LinkedIn Whether or not you are currently looking for work, maintaining your professional connections may come in handy someday. In addition, the platform hosts many creatives and thought leaders that provide inspiring content for your next chapter. LinkedIn also has Creator Tools that might be worth exploring if you embark on a new endeavor.
Sorry, for ideas about TikTok or Snapchat, you’ll have to ask a Millennial.
I joined Facebook in 2010 because I thought I would be left behind – alone at the lunch table – if I didn’t get on the bandwagon. I was mostly right—some 68% of Boomers are on Facebook today.
But watching endless short videos of cute dogs, Schitt’s Creek clips, and Graham Norton’s celebrity interviews isn’t social—it’s a distraction. As any marketer knows, views and “likes” are meaningless unless they lead to engagement.
Social media has a place in my reinvention toolkit, but nothing beats human connection. And for that, I need to get off the couch.