'Ways of Knowing' about Aging, Old Age and Transitions in Later Life: Insights from Social Media
The presentation also focuses on one selected lifecourse transition: to widowhood in later life. Social media provide outlets for expression among those whose widowhood is considered ‘off-time’ or in other ways ‘disenfranchised’. But social media also transform the experience of widowhood, enabling the visual depiction (and wide distribution) of portrayals of self in widowhood. The case of an 87-year old widow in the USA and her one million (plus) Instagram followers is illustrative here.
Inter-generational access to new media provides opportunities for images and portrayals of aging that profoundly challenge the dominant public narrative of deficit and decrement in the fourth age, and of misery, decline and isolation with widowhood in later life. Such representations challenge and reinforce ideas about aging in complex and contradictory ways. Such issues as the creation of ‘personas’, of archetypical representations vs. deliberately exaggerated ‘types’ of aging and old age, and the role of (younger) others in facilitating the technology and nature of old age representation, are addressed.