Couple of weeks before we had reported that Facebook brings in more negative effect on mood compared to other social networking sites. But do you know that age-based discrimination pervades on Facebook? Ageism has been found to exist throughout a wide variety of societal institutions. But this the first time when social networking sites is considered to study old aged people.
According to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center, 86% of internet users between the ages of 18 to 29 use Facebook, while only 35% of users over 65 use the social network.
Researchers based at the Yale School of Public Health have found that Facebook has an “injurious” ambiance for older generation of users and that it has urged the company to prevent age-based discrimination in a study published in the current issue of “The Gerontologist”. The brief study, entitled “Facebook as a Site for Negative Age Stereotypes,” which is authored by Becca Levy, a professor at the School of Public Health and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Hunter College and the Hopkins School.
To determine which Facebook groups to include in her study, Levy and her team searched the site for groups containing one or more of 75 synonyms for the terms old, aged and elderly. The study involved a “content analysis” of group descriptions for all 84 results of the query, found that age-based negative stereotypes were present at consistent and high rates. The mean age category of the group creators was 20–29; all were younger than 60 years.
Among these, 74% excoriated older individuals, 27% infantilized them, and 37% of them even advocated banning them from public activities, such as shopping.
However, researchers noted that the site — which forbids discriminating on the basis of various criteria including race, religion and sexual orientation — does not account for possible age-based prejudice.
In the study Levy also described that said she wants to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt and hopes this new information will help improve the environment faced by older people on Facebook. Also, she thinks laws against ageism could be stronger. In the meantime she hopes Facebook will actively work to prevent ageism.
Levy said she wants to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt and hopes this new information will help improve the environment faced by older people on Facebook. And, Facebook has the potential to break down barriers between generations; in practice, it may have erected new ones.
“One thing that’s been kind of nice in writing this is that the Facebook spokesperson requested a copy of the article,” she added. “Somebody there is looking at the article. It would be great if some of these particularly offensive groups were taken down.”
But, the company did not return a request for comment, but Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, told the New Haven Register on March 30 that the study does not reflect the way most people use Facebook.