Older Adults More Apt To Share Misinformation On Social Media

Published: Monday, October 5, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:28pm
Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Kristy Roschke is managing director of the ASU News Co/Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism

During the 2016 presidential campaign, people 65 and older were more likely to share unverified or fake news stories on Facebook. And we know, even now, fake news stories and memes remain a serious, even dangerous problem. So, how do you know what’s real anymore? 

Fake news has come a long way from those supermarket tabloid days, when Elvis was abducted by aliens. Now, it can be tough to differentiate between credible news and out of this world. Kristy Roschke is the managing director of the ASU News Co/Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. 

The Co/Lab developed a free, three-week media literacy course to help people, especially older adults, better navigate this strange, often confusing, digital landscape because, "seniors are more inclined to share information on social media, with their friends and family without fully understanding or maybe fully vetting that information first," Roschke said. 

Like, take memes.

"And so they might share a meme of a famous person, allegedly saying some quotes that a quick Google search would unearth that, you know, either they did not ever say that quote, or it was taken totally out of context," Roschke said. 

Roschke says if you’re not sure that it’s true, don’t share it. 

But we know fear and anger are two powerful emotions — and when we’re on social media and we see something that triggers those feelings, we might be inclined to share it.  

"And so we’re inclined to have a knee-jerk reaction to that type of content. And by furthering that content through sharing it or liking it on our social media feeds we’re sort of contributing to that problem of spreading this information that, you know, may not be entirely accurate," she said. 

The next course starts Oct. 5, just in time for the November election. 

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