Beyond Your Years with Luis Martinez

How to Enjoy Social Media

Every week I make a very short one minute selfie video in Spanish for my mother, Mami, who is now 99 years old and only 109 days from reaching a Century in this life.  Mami has lived in Miami, FL, for 30 years, and it can be difficult to stay in touch with her from 1,500 miles away. Just a few years ago, Mami had a Nokia cell phone and she knew everyone’s number (and birthdates!) by heart.  But now her memory is not the same and I have to resort to other methods in order to stay in touch with her.  If I want to chat with Mami, I use a feature on my iPhone called Facetime, which is a live camera like the Skype system on a computer. Other times, I make a very short minute video of myself with my phone and I text it to her caregivers. They play it for Mami as often as she likes because it is a recording.

Even farther away than my mother are my grandchildren Abby (6), and Joshy (4). They live with our daughter and son-in-law in Vancouver, WA, which is 2,722 miles door to door. We travel there as often as we can, but in between visits we rely on technology – Skype and Facetime – to bring us closer. In fact, children as young as Abby and Joshy are growing up with this type of technology in their pocket, so they don’t know that just a few years ago all of this was nonexistent.   Are you curious about how many older adults are using social media to stay in touch with loved ones, and to do much more?  Let’s take a look.

What would you guess is the number of adults ages 65 or older who use Facebook regularly?  Is it 10%?  Maybe 20%?  Could it possibly be 50%?  Well, the data demonstrate some very surprising trends! According to the Pew Research Center as of 2016 it is an astounding 62%!  But you may be thinking, “They’re just playing games. There’s nothing of substance on Facebook.” Or is there?  Well, you can set privacy settings in such a way that only some people (like your children and grandchildren) can see what you post or what they post on Facebook, thereby keeping up to date with their latest escapades – all very much in private. But you can also use Facebook to keep up with stories in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, The Economist, Bloomberg, People Magazine and all your local TV News.

Luis presenting on social media

Speaking of privacy, you may want to ask for help in setting your privacy parameters on your phone or PC.  Why?  Well, for example, if you leave your phone’s locator settings turned on all the time, Facebook will know exactly where you are, geographically, every minute of your day.  They then use information about you (together with millions of other users) as meta data (huge amounts of data points) and sell those data chunks to companies that buy them for marketing and sales purposes.  This can certainly be alarming.  But it should be considered as part of a carefully balanced equation – how much of your privacy are you willing to share with those applications companies so you can get social media for free?  It’s a fine balance, but in the long run we can all manage through to gain the benefit. Every business – your bank, the electric company, your physician and hospital – they all want you to do business with them digitally. Why? Because it’s much more economical for them and helps keep their prices lower and more competitive. We are all living in a digital world. If anyone has tried to go “off the grid,” meaning trying to do things strictly on paper without a digital foot print, they have found it nearly impossible.

Back to the good news – yes, it’s easier now than it has ever been to stay in touch with our loved ones of all ages and in all places by carefully selecting and employing social media applications. A core team of my high school friends are organizing our 50th reunion and they’re doing it all – you guessed it – on social media using Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. In the days of phone and fax it was certainly done but not as quickly or comprehensively.

Last month I used Facetime to chat with Mami. My sister in Miami held her iPhone so my mother could see it and I could see her, too. This allowed us to have a live, real time conversation. With Mami’s stage of dementia, she doesn’t recognize that it’s just my digital image that she’s seeing on my sister’s phone. In her attempt to say good night to me, Mami kissed my sister’s phone.


Luis Martinez is a guest blogger for St. John’s. He is an active senior that likes to observe and write about how people work at their careers, guide their businesses, strengthen their families, stay physically fit and mentally sharp, and race their sports cars. Luis habla español. Follow Luis on Twitter @BeyondYourYears, or email

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