When it comes to technology it seems the younger you are (within reason), the more prepared you are to handle the technology trends. Nothing proves this more than “fake news” & misinformation. We’ve all been bombarded with unmistakable false texts from older friends and relatives and now according to a study conducted in the US has concluded that people above 65 years are the most guilty of spreading misinformation. It seems childlike innocence also applies to technology…
The study determined that the older an American was the likelier it was that they would share misinformation aka fake news on Facebook. 11% of users older than 65 (in the survey) whilst 3% of those between 18 and 29 were guilty of similar. To make matters worse; FB users above 65 shared more than double the number of false articles compared to the next-oldest group of 46-65 and nearly seven times that of the 18-29 age group.
According to The Verge, older users shared more fake news “regardless of education, sex, race, income, or how many links they shared.” The report doubled-down and concluded that age was a better predictor of online behaviour than any other metric.
Why is this the case?
While the researchers didn’t know for fact what was the reason behind older people sharing more fake news they came up with two possible conclusions:
The first is that older people, who came to the internet later, lack the digital literacy skills of their younger counterparts.
The second is that people experience cognitive decline as they age, making them likelier to fall for hoaxes.
Does all this apply to Zim???
The study wasn’t taken in Zim but I think it still holds true as it generally seems the older people on my contacts list are the more I’m likely to receive outrageously false messages from them. I’ve had similar complaints from my colleagues and friends. Another difference is the platform where the elderly do their damage. Most Zimbos in this age group are not on Facebook but they participate in the spread of fake news on WhatsApp.
The problem is giving these elders the fake news lecture always feels extremely harsh (for me at least) especially when they reach out because they are usually trying to protect me from whatever dangers are being threatened in the message. It is necessary and unless they are educated we will continue to have this discussion over and over again.