Those who balance online and offline social interaction are more likely to live longer
New research confirms that people who have stronger social networks—both online and offline—live longer.
The study, published in the journal PNAS and based on 12 million social media profiles made available to researchers by Facebook, turned the tables on the longstanding belief by many that increased screen time could be detrimental to our health. While the paper itself acknowledges the paper’s “many limitations,” it does point to evidence that a combination of online and offline social interaction is a good balance for better health and a longer life.
Face-to-face from far away
Arda Henderiks, 90, uses Facebook daily to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world.
“[Facebook] has enriched my life tremendously. I’m originally from The Netherlands, and all my family is there. I am in contact with them weekly, and we’ve been able to see each other. It’s a wonderful thing to have and be able to use,” says Arda.
Aside from keeping tabs on people she already knows, Arda communicates with friends in South Africa. Through a connection with her son, a judo athlete who tried out for the Olympic games, and her native Dutch language, Arda became Facebook friends with about five Afrikaans-speaking judo athletes a few years ago.
“Afrikaans is very similar to the Dutch language. We don’t communicate in English or Dutch, we use Afrikaans, which is practically Dutch,” she says. “I got to know each and every one [of these people] through Facebook. My son is friends with all the same people.”
While she admits it’s unusual, she also says it’s been very interesting and fun watching her new friends’ families grow, from getting married to having children.
Closer to home, Arda uses Facebook to interact with her neighbors at Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., where she has lived for the past ten years.
“Almost everybody I know here uses Facebook. This is not your ‘old folks home,’ you know,” she laughs. “People here are very well educated and use any means of conversation. Seabrook offers a lot of activities and programs, but it is sometimes nice to sit and relax and have fun [using Facebook]. I love it. I spend at least an hour a day, maybe more, and an hour at night to converse with all my people.”
As the social media study alludes, a balance between online and offline interaction could positively influence health and lifespan. Arda’s a tech-savvy senior, but she’s also an active one.
She exercises in the on-site fitness center, meets up with friends, and serves as an ambassador to introduce Seabrook to prospective residents.
Other on-site activities include art classes; music and singing groups; a theater club; mindfulness classes like yoga, tai chi, and crystal bowls meditation; the woodshop; cards and games; billiards; continuing education classes; current events discussion group; travel; and language clubs, among many, many more.
All 120-plus interest groups are run by community members and coordinated by the helpful resident life team.
“I love it here. It’s as much social interaction as you want,” Arda says. “I would have never gone anywhere else but here.”
Seabrook recognizes the benefits of connecting through Facebook and other social media sites. Each of Erickson Living’s 19 communities located in 11 states has its own Facebook page.
“The Facebook page has two goals: awareness and connection,” says Erin Vernon, social media program manager at Erickson Living. “Through Facebook, we aim to increase engagement and interaction among residents, prospective residents, employees, and family members. Facebook provides the perfect venue to showcase the lifestyle we offer and to invite everyone to connect and come together. Consumers are always more interested in what other customers have to say.”
Visit the Seabrook Facebook page and you’ll find interesting stories about the people who live and work at the community, as well as events and programs on campus.
“It’s a great resource to keep updated on what is happening on campus as well as interact with residents and staff,” says Seabrook Public Relations Manager Petra Shaw. “We encourage everyone to post their own photos to the page.”
Residents, prospective residents, employees, family members, local officials, and industry partners regularly chime in on the conversations with likes, shares, and comments. “Our residents and employees are the stars of Erickson Living, and our Facebook fans love hearing about them,” Vernon says.