HOUSTON — Social media has become the information highway for so many people, but not everything is paved with the truth.
A new study found some age groups are more inclined to believe and share misinformation.
The posts pop up on social media news feeds constantly. Claims that you, “Need to affix two stamps to your absentee ballot to make sure it gets delivered;” “Lawmakers are trying to sneak in a bill that would raise taxes on guns and ammo;” “FEMA has authorized a $2800.00 check for hazard pay!”
The claims are false, but that doesn't stop thousands of people from sharing them.
Helen Lee Bouygues, the founder of The Reboot Foundation, which funds research to elevate critical thinking, studied it.
“Clearly, the challenge of social media is the difficulty of people to distinguish between blogs, bots and institutional sources,” Bouygues said.
Bouygues recently conducted a study called “Is There A Fake News Generation” to find out which age groups are most likely to fall for false news and foreign propaganda. She says they all had one thing in common.
“Most, majority of people that we surveyed actually are extremely overconfident that they can identify fake news when, in reality, less than one percent of the people that we surveyed actually was doing proper fact checking,” Bouygues said.
Bouygues wanted to know whether a person’s age influences their ability to resist clickbait and identify legitimate news headlines and bi-partisan political websites.
She found, people 60 and older preferred clickbait headlines nearly 81 percent of the time. The youngest survey group, 18 to 30-year-olds, 72 percent of the time.
When it came to their ability to detect unreliable websites, 64 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 to 30 had poor evaluation of the sites. Fifty-one percent were age 60 and above. Other age groups fell somewhere in the middle.
“With the election coming up, you know, in less than 40 days, I think it's really much more important that people are self-aware and that they watch out to make sure that they are not themselves subject to massive misinformation,” Bouygues said.
Bouygues suggests a little social media detox. And, if you just can’t pull away, she suggests spending more time researching what you see. If you can’t find a good source for the information you see, don’t share it.