We have all received WhatsApp messages in our family groups that are usually forwarded by the older members of our family claiming that coronavirus is caused by eating non vegetarian foods or banging utensils generates positive energy that destroys coronavirus and other such absurd things. Of course these are examples of fake news and are recognized as such, easily by a millennial or Gen z but not so by our parents, uncles, aunts or the boomer generation.
The dynamics between age and misinformation are being studied by various researchers in the field of communication. In fact several studies have found that adults over the age of 65 are more likely to fall for fake news than younger adults. Studies in Princeton and NYU found that older people do spread fake news, but they were not the source. Them being late adopters of technology and new to internet and social media might be one of the reasons that they are gullible and believe anything they see on the internet.
Researches should further attempt to find out as to why boomers fall to fake news and look for solutions to curb the spread of misinformation. It’s time that Facebook, Whastapp, Twitter and other social media platforms should carry out their own research and take effective measures. Meanwhile, it is up to us to make sure that older adults are not sharing fake news. We should provide them with sources through which they can fact check what they have shared. We should teach them how to identify and flag a fake message.
Our older generation helped us make sense of the real world and now it is up to us to guide them through the virtual world.