The perks of acting your age online… and the risks
For many, age is just a number. For others, it’s a mindset that reflects every ounce of maturity and wisdom they’ve squeezed out of each passing birthday. Whatever your feelings about your big number, any clever bod with access to your public information can make a sophisticated guess at your age, most likely with lightning precision.
Whether you divulge your Birthiversary on your profile or not, you create a perception of how old you are just by interacting with pages, ads and content. Whatever your privacy settings, all that information is public. Guesstimates based purely on your Facebook likes could be touted as your age in the digital world. “Ah well”, you may say, “so my Facebook age is a few years departed from reality; no big deal.”
Oh, but it is. And here’s why.
You might be limiting your horizons.
Exclusively liking unicorns and superheroes may mean you’ll miss out on explosively varied content and with it, new interests or lifelong passions. By only engaging with content that suits a persona, rather than a person, you’re denying yourself a feed full of eye-opening, mind-expanding discoveries – all because Facebook thinks you’re your shoe size, not your age.
And don’t forget, if digital you looks younger than 18, some content is age-restricted. You may think this only includes booze and gambling, so it’s no great loss, but you could also be missing out on car ads or credit card and mortgage offers. It’s a case of ‘if you don’t look old enough, you’re not coming in’.
Different age, different era.
Of course it’s a sweeping generalisation, but it’s not an unfair one: the generation you belong to influences the way you behave. And if content is to offer you any benefit at all, it’s important that your generational quirks are satisfied by the content you see, if it has any hope of enticing you to engage.
Reviews, guides and explainer videos are more useful to those who value detail: typically (though not exclusively) those of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. Whereas the social proof of peer popularity alone might be enough to convince the mobile-driven iGeneration of the under 21s to like, comment and share away – after all, when you’ve grown up with a phone as an extension of you, it seems only natural that you value memes as a valid method of self-expression.
So if the digital kilter is off on something as basic as your age, it could be that you’re not being served much of anything that offers real value to you.
Age isn’t everything.
Okay, our age can sway the way we like to digest information, but that alone doesn’t dictate what we care about – far from it. A married, rural, dad of four, aged 35, is unlikely to share similar interests with a city-working bachelor of the same age. A risk-taking investor in her middle years may become a lot more reserved with her cash beyond 50, because she has more to lose and a retirement to think about.
Marketing entirely to age demographics is generally a fool’s choice because we are more than a number, as proved this year, when Gransnet and Mumsnet found that 75% of Brits over 50 believe that ads aimed at them rely on patronising tropes and fail to understand their attitudes, opinions and experience. And with the grey pound market ever expanding in our ageing population, marketers need to look beyond birthdays to meet our expectations when it comes to content.
In the same way that we change over time, so too should the content we see.
Lesson be learned – idle likes linger
So, what can you do to make sure your likes reflect an authentic portrait of who you are? Well, it’s worth having a trawl through your old page likes to check they’re in sync with the person you are today – a heart-warming page dedicated to videos of cats giggling may have floated your boat ten years ago, but if you’re more of a dog person now, click that thumbs up from blue to grey and don’t look back.
We all spend so much of our time online; it’s fair to expect that we’re served up content that offers us something worth looking at, no matter what our age at the time of scrolling. And for our part of the bargain, it could pay off to be at least a little discerning, a fraction less liberal, with those likes. If we do, we may find that the social content we see evolves with us as we grow.