Is Twitter for Old People?


Twitter Geeks Get AnxiousI was shocked last week, when I learned that Twitter is the communications medium of choice for old-fashioned middle-agers with a penchant for technology, and not so much for the young at heart.  The jolt to my 40-something year-old psyche was worse than the aging pangs I felt when trading my sporty 2-door wheels for a steady 4 door sedan.  Worse yet, the news of my antiquity came from another decrepit 40-something who was merely reporting that her teenager at home couldn't see why such a tool as Twitter would be necessary.  After all, do we really need to re-invent text-messaging? 

To be sure, there have always been generation gaps around technology use.  The WWII generation grew up with the on-air marvels of Amos and Andy, Lone Ranger and science fiction of Buck Rodgers -- all on radio.  As a late boomer, it was the transition from black and white to color TV and eight tracks to cassette tapes that seemed amazingly cool to me.  So how could something so new (Twitter has really hit its stride in the past year) be so truly old fashioned? I had to find out whether the rants of one too young to know could really reflect a societal trend.

It took nary a Google search to find other upstarts who professed the belief that Twitter is for oldsters.  Entering the phrase "Twitter is for old people,"  I found some compelling, though annecdotal evidence that only dinosaurs should want to go near it.  The London Times reported that Morgan Stanley in Great Britain published a paper on the topic penned by Matthew Robson, a 15 year old summer intern.  In it he writes "Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter."  While a Neilsen study concurs that the 17 and under crowd uses Twitter less than others, there are surveys that suggest that it is pretty widely used through a variety of age groups.  A Pew Study published in February 2009 finds that online adults of many ages are at least dabbling in the new medium.

Age Range% Using Twitter
(or similar tool)

Although I have not seen Twitter usage stats for teens, the number of Tweeters in each age range seems pretty healthy albeit still skewed a bit toward the younger side. 

Now that I can, with great relief, still claim to be young and cool as a Twitter user, you might be wondering what it all means.  Where the conventional wisdom over the  years has held that the young are our early adopters, the rapid shift toward new technologies and ways of doing things is becoming more readily recognized and driven by individuals at all ages.  Young now includes 18 year olds, 24 year olds and even 30-somethings.  Conventional wisdom, as we know it, is beginning to change.  The drivers of adopting new technologies increasingly include thoughtful consideration of usefulness and usability, methods of access, availability of pre-existing solutions, marketing and more.  In a number of ways, the growing list of adoption factors makes it harder to choose which bandwagon to hop aboard, but it also makes the ride into the future more interesting.  Stay tuned.