How Canadians Use Facebook: The Generational Perspective

According to a poll of 1,362 Canadians conducted by Abacus Data of Ottawa, generations differ in how they use social media and how they view privacy online.

According to the Abacus Data results, just over 60% of those over 60 years old identify themselves as Facebook users. Usage increases gradually as age decreases: nearly 70% of 45-59 year olds, nearly 80% of 30-44 year olds, and 91% of millennials (those aged 18-29) have a Facebook account.

That’s a pretty hefty number of us who seem to be taking to Facebook and social media as would a duck to water. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the water in question is completely frozen over for a good part of the year.

I’ve always thought that our climate makes us prone to what I used to call the “cabin fever curve”, once summer roles around, internet usage drops faster than the US dollar compared to the Canadian. However, that’s just my own anecdotal evidence and not really based on figures.

Before you start sending me hate email, did I mention I’m Canadian?

It should be noted that this survey was conducted on line, which in this context is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. The fact that it was conducted online would explain why the survey found 73 percent of respondents identified themselves as using Facebook. So, that number is a bit misleading and we should look deeper for meaning here.

The insight in this report is not who uses Facebook more, but how they use it. It won’t come as a surprise that millennials spend more time on the social network, with 50% logging in at least multiple times per day, and over 80% checking at least once per day.

This drops with older generations, with 67% of 30-44 year olds, 58% of 45-59 year olds and 50% of those 60 and up checking in at least once per day.

Facebook use by age Abacus Canada

Another non-surprise is that millennials were less concerned about personal privacy online than other age groups. The older the age group, the less likely they were to share personal information online.

Half the millennials polled cited Facebook as the most likely way they would hear of noteworthy happenings, text came in second at 20%. Meanwhile phone accounted for only 13% for them. Over 50% of 45-59 year olds and those over 60 cited the phone as the most likely channel in this regard.

In my opinion, this kind of data can get a bit fuzzy depending on how you define “noteworthy events”. Those of us who number among the older generations in this survey probably do consider the phone to be a more direct and personal method of communication. That being the case, the perception of what is “noteworthy” varies – I sure wouldn’t want to hear about my sister getting married via email, but that’s just me perhaps.

There has been a misconception for some time now that older generations don’t get technology and this simply is not the case. They get it, but they simply don’t perceive it as does the millennial generation. As well, I don’t think they “need” it as much as younger generations do. They haven’t grown up relying on it as much. Millenials simply view Facebook as older generations do the phone. It’s become a natural extension for their communications.