The Grandmother Problem

As someone who is a devoted lover to online social media platforms and other online communities, I see a lot of content being shared, posted, retweeted and reposted. Whether this information being shared is correct or untrue I still see it everywhere. Most often than not the most untrue information I see being shared is on Facebook. “More than half of online adults in the U.S. aged 65 or over are now using Facebook,” we learn from Shea Bennett. We also learn that this is very much greater than to the “10 percent of seniors who are using Twitter”. This often is called the “the grandmother problem”, which is that the majority of false online information being shared is by older people who are more unfamiliar with the online space.

Knowing that this information is false, and more often than not shared by a family member or someone you care about, how do we approach this problem? “Experts agree that being non-confrontational is key,” according to Craig Silverman from Buzzfeed. Being as empathic and respectful as possible is the way to go. Most times when false or fabricated information is shared, they aren’t always aware that the information is false, outdated, or untrue. Confronting these people about what they shared from a point of empathy in non-public way and encouraging them to do more research and find out the facts for themselves is the best way to help combat this issue. Daniel Kent founded Net Literacy, which is an organization to help senior citizens gain basic internet skills and be more confident about getting online. “I think it’s fundamentally about treating [older people] with concern and respect. Recognizing that perhaps they had the best of intentions, but the execution on their part perhaps wasn’t the most, the most thoughtful and mindful,” he said.

Also taking into account that everyone is human and makes mistakes. As the Internet and online space is growing and evolving so much every day, staying updated on new technology and techniques isn’t always easy, especially for older people. Looking in the mirror and seeing that you yourself also makes mistakes and have shared untrue information without realizing the implications and repercussions this can cause.