Internet on the go

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Since it started in 2004, Facebook has been synonymous with college students and young adults, but statistics on the website today tell a different story.  Of the 200 million people on Facebook, more than two thirds of them aren't in college.  In fact, the fastest growing age group on the site is 35 years old and up.

As parents, teachers and even grandparents of the Facebook generation log on, they are surprised at how useful and how easy the site can be.

"I always see on this thing it says, this gentleman has 581 friends," said Todd Trenchard, staring perplexedly at his computer.  "I don't have 581 people I've ever met!"

His assistant, Elizabeth, who is only 18, let out a laugh. She may be younger than Trenchard, but when it comes to social networking, she's ahead of Trenchard.

But Trenchard has been fascinated with the site since he signed on four months ago.

"How many friends do you have?" he asked Elizabeth.

"I have about a thousand," she replied.

The language of Facebook is a new one for Trenchard, but with help from others like Elizabeth, he's picking it up with ease.

"I've got one for Spring for the Kids Gala for Junior Auxiliary, and one for 'Watch a TV show,'" he said pointing to a list of event invitations that popped up on the computer screen.  "I didn't realize that was there until just now."

He may be new to the site, but he's already putting Facebook to work for him.

"I've said I'm attending and they asked me to RSPV. If I clicked on that," he said, as a box popped up on his computer screen. The box had 3 options: Attending, Maybe Attending, and Not Attending.

"So if I clicked on- I couldn't come, then I guess I'd just click there," Trenchard said. "That helps them get a count of who's coming and who's not. That would be a great tool that we could use."

He's using Facebook to promote and coordinate charitable events all over Jackson County for the Bacot McCarty Foundation.

"What we try to do with it is you look at those others that are involved with you, and you can find out- send out alerts," Trenchard said.  "If there's a fundraising event that's coming up that weekend, you can shoot it out to everybody. And all of a sudden, there's a little message that pops up: 'Don't forget tonight.' And in our busy world, its good to have those types of messages."

With just a click of the mouse, he's able to access people of every age, in every city all over the world.  Trenchard is just one of the many who recognizes the power of the social networking site.

"Facebook has been able to cross that age barrier better than anything I've seen," Trenchard said.  "It's the first thing I've seen come along in many a year with the internet that immediately grabbed me and you can see the potential of it right away."

In Gautier, Linda Guillotte is also logging on.

"She's arrived in Kansas, and I want to make sure she's arrived okay," said Guillotte, looking at one in a column of pictures and messages on her computer screen.

Linda Guillotte is using the site for more personal reasons.

"Instead of sending out one email to our friends or family, you can just send one," Guillotte said.  "Its called a poke, isn't it?"

Guillotte's children convinced her to join the site, and she couldn't believe what she found.  Pictures she thought she lost in her home in Katrina were posted to other people's accounts, including one from her son's high school graduation.

"They found that photo," she said with amazement.  "And it had gone into the water. And then they loaded it on the site, and I was able to download it to my site."

Guillotte said the picture's reappearance shocked her.

"I never thought I'd see it again," she said.  "I was so upset. That was one of the things that upset me the most was losing all my pictures."

Through Facebook, she's sharing those same pictures she lost with loved ones around the world.

"My friend in Scotland now has this picture," she said, happily pointing to the black-and-white image on the computer screen.

The Facebook website says there are more than 200 million active users today, and the people signing up the fastest are 35 years and older.  They say its more useful and easier than they had ever imagined.

"I probably thought it might be something that was more technically advance than what I might know how to do," Guillotte said.  "But it turned out to be very simple."

"I think the possibilities are limitless, and hopefully it will be used in a positive way," Trenchard said.

Thursday night on WLOX News at 10pm, Sylvia Hall continues her special report. Find out how other people in South Mississippi are making Facebook an integral part of their daily lives.

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