Most elders in Botswana perceive social networks as youth-oriented and ideal for their problem free minds. They can also be said to be time consuming by many and, as a trend, has come with new problems and complications.
Just like other governments around the globe, the Botswana government is also enjoying its fair share of participation and usage.
What is more interesting is whether the government Facebook and Twitter pages, known to have information about the government and national issues, can be helpful to most elders who are always interested in national issues.
‘Is this page going to attract many elders?’ ‘Does this mean I am about to have a mother and father as Facebook friends or Twitter follower?’ ‘As it is a common Facebook style of creating groups and pages, are we going to have a page for the pensioners and oldies?’
The official government social network page is called BW Government and it is managed by the renowned, government media general, Dr Jeff Ramsay.
Ramsay, also a Government spokesman, said the BW Government page is growing rapidly and the youth are also interested in national issues, not just partying and sports.
He said, according to their recent survey, 68 percent of the traffic of the Government Facebook page is between the ages of 18-34 and another 9 percent comes from 65-year-olds and above.
“While we have wondered about the accuracy of this, we certainly are getting more and more people in all age brackets visiting us. The key to the growth of social media in general has been the reach one may obtain in this country through mobile phones,” said Dr Ramsay.
He further explained that, just like other users, he has also found the good side of social networks. Regarding the popular social network of Facebook, which boasts around 294┬á000 local users according to Internet World Stats website latest statistics, Ramsay said he thinks that Facebook is a very useful tool whose full potential we undoubtedly have yet to realise.
He said social networks, provide for user friendly real time interactive communications, and can be easily adapted to different target groups.
“Since we rebooted the site 12 months ago, our monthly readership has climbed from less than a thousand to over a million,” said Dr Ramsay.
Ramsay says we live in an information age and Facebook is a great leveller, being easily accessible to all. He said potential commercial, personal and public service advantages are almost endless in social networks like Facebook.
However, Ramsay said he regrets that there are risks for those who engage in social media. He said risks include over distraction (online addiction) and overexposure.
When asked whether he is using Facebook, Ramsay said he is only contributing to an institutional website, which is under his supervision, BW Government. He said the reason he is not on Facebook is because of the risks that go with using it.
“Perhaps in the future when I have more time I will join the 65+ club of personal Facebookers,” said Ramsay.
About the 65+ club of Facebook, Dr Ramsay said he knows some members here in Botswana as well as elsewhere, adding that for elders, the page can be a great release in keeping up with other connected people as they generally have more time and, sometimes, less mobility.