Under the age of 25, GenZers are digital natives who can shop, order takeout, and find a romantic partner, all with a few swipes of the finger. On the other hand, Baby Boomers, who are over the age of 57, have a shakier grasp on technology and are more likely to struggle with basic online tasks like product returns, per a Nfinite study. What makes these two generations so different?
Social Media Use by Generation
For many GenZers, it’s typical to spend about three hours a day using social media platforms. Conversely, 48 percent of Baby Boomers spend between 10 minutes and one hour on social media per day, and 24 percent either spend less than 10 minutes on social media per day or don’t have social media at all, according to a study by McKinsey & Co.
The chasm between Baby Boomers and GenZers lies not only in a drastic difference in social media engagement rates but also in underlying anxieties from the older generation. Almost half — 48 percent — of Boomers say they are concerned about how companies use their personal data or how their government tracks them online. In comparison, only 21 percent of U.S. teens are very or extremely concerned about the amount of personal information social media companies might have about them, per the Pew Research Center.
“In the time where we were brought up, it was a completely different paradigm,” says Diane Pacom, Emerita Professor of Sociology at the University of Ottawa. “We didn’t trust anonymous crowds or anonymous groups. For Baby Boomers [social media] is something you use, but always with this attitude of not being one hundred percent secure about the security of what you’re disseminating to the public and how it’s going to be interpreted. The rapport of trust is not as strong as with the younger generations.”
In addition, privacy-conscious elders also harbor anxiety around the adaptability and accessibility of today’s technology. More than two-thirds — 68 percent — of respondents over 50 do not believe that today’s technology is designed with their age in mind, per an AARP study.
Read More: What Is a Social Media Cleanse?
Negative Effects of Social Media
Of Americans, 88 percent believe social media is the partial or complete culprit behind the uptick in depression among teenagers, according to a YouGov poll. When it comes to the mental health effects of social media, it is unsurprising, given the lower consumption rates, that Baby Boomers are reaping fewer psychological consequences from app usage.
GenZers are over three times as likely to report a negative body image as a result of social media consumption than Baby Boomers (25 percent versus 7 percent), per McKinsey & Co. However, across generations, more and more Americans are taking social media fasts for health reasons, with 72 percent of Baby Boomers and 44 percent of GenZers engaging in extended breaks from social technology via a YouGov poll.
Baby Boomers and Media Consumption
Baby Boomers grew up during a time when television was the primary entertainment medium, and they continue to have a strong attachment to traditional television. As of 2022, Baby Boomers are still more likely to tune into a television show than engage with social media, with 93 percent of respondents tuning into television shows at least once a week, according to Statista.
In fact, 59 percent of Baby Boomers watch over 10 hours of television a week as opposed to only 17 percent of GenZers, per an Ipsos poll. Because color television shows began broadcasting in 1953, it seems logical that Baby Boomers would lean into a nostalgic technology that grounds them in the wonder and familiarity of their childhood days.
“Television is more comfortable to us [Baby Boomers] than other mass media offshoots,” says Pacom. “It was the love affair of my generation. For us, and I’m speaking from my own experience, it became our comfort zone and a way for us to socialize. It was the way we were getting our information. And then our kids and grandchildren chose to follow the evolution of how knowledge and information was transmitted, which is unsurprising.”