Dec. 16, 2010 at 4:42 PM ET
If it seems like you're seeing more of your parents and their friends on Facebook, it's not your imagination.
"Generations 2010," a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that while the youngest generations are still more likely to use social network sites, the biggest burst of use has come from the oldest generation of moms and pops: those 74 and older, whose Farmville playing, Facebook commenting and tweeting has quadrupled since 2008, from 4 percent to 16 percent.
Other moms and pops also seem to be getting in on the craze. "Younger Boomers" (ages 46-55) also took a big jump on social networking, from 20 percent last year to 50 percent this year, while "Older Boomers" (ages 56-64) also leapt up from 9 percent to 43 percent.
It's becoming so prevalent, that there are even flow charts out there to help you weigh the decision to friend your parent, as Technolog pointed out. (For the record, my father tried to friend me on Facebook. I've put him in limbo. Friending him would mean opening up the doors to endless, endless questions about my life.)
The Internet is no longer the exclusive playground for the younger set.
So take that, Millennials (ages 18-33), who with all their swagger, aren't the end-all be-all of Internet dominance anymore, as they were only a year ago in Pew's first "Generations" report.
Gen X'ers (ages 34-45), their parents and grandparents are all more likely than Millennials to engage in several online activities, including visiting government websites and getting financial information online.
That doesn't mean Millennials are still not leaders in some areas. They remain more likely to use wi-fi to access the Internet using a laptop or mobile phone. They also stay ahead of others in their use of: social networking sites, instant messaging and online classifieds. They're also still more likely than the other generations to listen to music, playing online games, read blogs and visit a virtual world.
So, in other words, they're more likely to be online to play and connect with their friends regularly.
When people do go online, all generations seem to gravitate toward the same activities (in this order): e-mail, search engines, health information, news, shopping, making travel arrangements, online banking, religious information, rating products, services, or people, making charitable donations and downloading podcasts.
E-mail is one of the great digital divides, with 88 percent of the oldest generation (dubbed the "G.I. Generation" by Pew) likely to use it, while teens manifest as the generation least likely to do so, with only 73 percent of teens who use it (who seem to prefer instant messaging, texting and Facebook e-mail).
Searching for health information has become the third most popular activity for adults who go online, with 83 percent.
The only activity that seems to be going the way of the dodo bird (or the portable CD player or home phone, whatever your soon-to-be irrelevant piece of tech) is blogging, something that Pew speculates could be because of the rise of social media.
Only half as many online teens work on their own blog as did in 2006, and Millennial generation adults ages 18-33 have also seen a modest decline — a development that may be related to the quickly-growing popularity of social network sites. At the same time, however, blogging’s popularity increased among most older generations, and as a result the rate of blogging for all online adults rose slightly overall from 11% in late 2008 to 14% in 2010. Yet while the act formally known as blogging seems to have peaked, internet users are doing blog-like things in other online spaces as they post updates about their lives, musings about the world, jokes, and links on social networking sites and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.