It looks like our kids are getting their political news from Facebook while we Boomers are still watching the local TV news.
According to a report from the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of those born between 1981 and 1996 get their political news by clicking through the links posted on their Facebook pages, while only 37 percent of them are watching the local news.
The numbers flip when you ask Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, where they get their news. Sixty percent say local TV and 39 percent say Facebook.
It makes sense. Almost 90 percent of Millennials use Facebook compared with 56 percent of those over 65, although that number of older users is up 11 percent from the previous year and is climbing fast. But I thought the kids were fleeing Facebook for just that reason — the old people are hanging out there.
Young people are more likely to get their news from on-line sources in general, the report says. Three of their top 10 sources for news were on the Internet: Facebook, Google News and Yahoo News. Facebook was the only Internet source in the top 10 for Boomers.
As the Pew researchers themselves point out, this has serious implications for the next presidential election, a time when campaign advertising dollars fill the coffers of local television stations. When the candidates realize so many of the voters are getting their news on line, that's where the money will go.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg must be doing a lot of smiling. According to reporting on NiemanLab, he has wanted to move what began as a social application toward more of a news aggregator, going so far as to fix it so you won't have to leave Facebook and go to, say, the Baltimore Sun website in order to read a news story there.
"I look at political posts and most news posts on Facebook as being just slightly better than a political bumper sticker on a car," said my Republican nephew Bill. He considers himself somewhere between a Millennial and a Gen-Xer.
He has created a system of bookmarks and news aggregators to deliver news to him, and it is finely tuned. "Facebook's news feed is meaningless to me in comparison. It's for pictures of people's kids. That's it."
Interestingly, the Pew Research Center report found that Boomers and their kids, the Millennials, distrust the same news sources: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Sean Hannity and BuzzFeed. This makes sense, too. There has been research that shows these two generations don't fight over politics the way Boomers did with their World War II parents. In fact, our views often align.
I think my Republican nephew's appetite for news and political analysis is rare. The kids aren't all that interested in political news — yet. That will change when they have more of a stake in life, with the acquisition of mates, houses and kids. But for the moment, my guess is that they are just seeing the headlines and the first paragraph of news stories that appear on their Facebook feeds, and they are not clicking through to the read the whole story.
That's the danger. News and information consumed in bite-sized pieces. No depth and no context. A lot of sports and celebrity gossip.
Amy Mitchell, one of the authors of the report, says news consumption habits are changing rapidly and it is hard to predict what those habits will be in the future. But what is interesting is that the news consumer, like my Republican nephew, is engaged in the process of deciding what news he will consume and on what platform he will consume it.
"We are looking at the growth of social media as the way people stay informed," she said. "Personal choice and the choices of their friends and certain algorithms are all influencing what news and information an individual sees in that space."
The other danger in designing your own on-line news feed? The echo. You end up hearing a lot of voices that sound like yours.
Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.