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  MARCH 15, 2013
Yale Research Shows Prejudice against Older Persons on Facebook

At the same time that Facebook is revolutionizing the way that people communicate, recent research shows that it also provides a platform for the enduring problem of negative age stereotypes.

Investigators led by Dr. Becca Levy, associate professor and director of the social and behavioral sciences division at the Yale School of Public Health, recently analyzed the site descriptions included on publicly accessible Facebook groups that focused on older persons. The sites were created by younger persons, mainly between the ages of 20 and 29, and had more than 25,000 combined members. 

All but one of these descriptions included negative age stereotypes, with the majority describing older persons as mentally or physically incompetent, or both. The elderly were vilified on three quarters of the Facebook sites examined. In some cases, executing the aged was proposed. One Facebook group description, for example, stated that anyone “over the age of 69 should immediately face a firing squad.” 

This is the first study of age stereotypes that appear on social-networking sites.

“Facebook has the potential to create new connections between the generations,” said Dr. Levy. “Instead, it may have created new obstacles.” 

The study appears in the online version of The Gerontologist. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, Hopkins School in New Haven, and Hunter College in New York co-authored the study.