CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Ling Wang

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

James Parrish


Web Studies, Information Technology, aging, Facebook, internet, older adults, social networking, technology


The Internet has infiltrated our daily lives in many ways. Social networking on the Internet is a great example of how the Internet has expanded interpersonal communication. Many individuals have made social networking sites, like FaceBook and Twitter, an essential part of their lives and use these platforms to communicate daily. Until recently, young people have been the primary participants in this fast-growing phenomenon, and older adults' participation in the Internet, specifically social networking sites, has lagged far behind. However, in recent years, there has been a noteworthy increase in the number of older adult participants. The increase in older adult participation in social networking sites is important because it seems to signify a decrease in the Internet usage gap called the "digital divide", and because there is strong evidence older adults may greatly benefit from social networking activity. The aging of the Baby Boomers has resulted in significant growth in the senior age group, reinforcing the timely importance of considering the older adults' "digital divide". This study uses a phenomenological approach to explore the experience of older adult users of social networking sites to determine the reasons why more older adults are now making social networking sites part of their lives. The study revealed both negative and positive influences on this choice that include: early negative personal experiences with technology, positive family influences, an increasing prevalence of technology, and technology's transition from complexity of use to ease of use. Although some resulting attitudes of older adults are negative, such as a need to control the role of social media in their life, online social networking plays a positive role in their lives. The probing, detailed nature of this phenomenological study clarifies influences and offers new perspectives, implying that research could benefit from a broader and deeper inspection. Research should consider, as related to the use of technology by older adults, a closer look at the effectiveness of training, potential gender differences in the choice to use technology, and the consequences of negative technological experiences.