How older generations share news articles in the smartphone era
When millennials head home, a lot of them are greeted with a pile of newspaper clippings.
Others receive highlighted articles sent in the mail, usually from grandparents or old-school parents. The more “with it” parents snap a photo of articles and email or text that over. And yes, some parents have figured out how to email or text over a link to a news story.
With so many options to share a news story (using the share buttons on a website, copying and pasting links into texts, email, or a messaging app, or use your smartphone’s built-in share options) it’s fascinating that a strong showing of parents are resistant to new (and arguably easier) ways to share content.
My own mother in her 60s is fairly adept at using the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle‘s “share via email” buttons, but just this week she set aside a Sunday article in the physical paper about the Spice Girls for me to read. I accidentally left it behind after visiting. Guess I’ll have to look it up online.
Parents and grandparents continue to confound us when it comes to sharing news. One colleague said her dad sends her emails (so tech savvy!), but proceeds to copy and paste the article he’s sharing — including headlines — without a link. Others deal with the opposite, an email with just a URL.
Just a URL, no subject line either. What’s bizarre is that he has opened and composed a new email to send me something, rather than using a share link which would’ve filled all fields and included a headline, but then only pasted a URL and uses different app to send thoughts.
— Justin Coleman (@justinpcoleman) July 23, 2019
Others have to hunt down articles. A family friend gets texts from her mom that say, “Did you read the New Yorker article about…” Another colleague deals with screenshots of an article sent via text, and a different coworker gets keywords from her mom about a story she heard on the news, so that sends her searching for the story online.
That roundabout method of sharing information makes sense since the source of our news is mostly TV broadcasts, especially for the 65-and-over crowd. A Pew Research Center study from late last year found 81 percent of Americans over 65 get their news from TV and almost 40 percent use print newspapers as their news source. For 18- to 29-year-olds that print news number drops to 2 percent.
An acquittance with parents with a wide age gap is a good case study: Her 80-year-old dad clips from the newspaper, while her 67-year-old mom emails her links.
Others share news through texts or group chats on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage, which keeps things contained and organized – and easier to click and read through on your preferred device.
Taking a photo of a newspaper article and sending it through email or text is one of the more unhelpful ways to share a story. One woman is good-humored about the craft brewing related articles her dad sends after snapping a photo from his iPhone, but she can’t really read the articles in this format. Here’s how some recent articles were sent (note the rotation):
The newspaper clippings either saved at home in piles or envelopes for different siblings or mailed over with Post-It notes and highlighted sections are quaint and cute and often from grandparents or older family members. But after TV news, most Americans get their news from a news website. Sorry, newspapers.
My grandfather will typically print or save everything and show me in person when I see him next. It really makes me think twice about my own need to share news instantly and the fear of my news being “irrelevant” if it’s not shared quickly enough.
— Cassie Gonzalez (@cass_mcfrass) July 23, 2019
Then there’s the over-the-top emailing from parents who have embraced emailing news too much. Email forwards with different fonts, colors, sizing, and dubious URLs end up in some people’s inboxes. So do Fox News stories with no explanation.
The different news-sharing methods can be frustrating when you know how easy it is to email over a link or pre-filled share-link (with a headline and some excerpt copy and a photo automatically inserted), but as one woman wrote about her aunt’s mailed clippings from newspapers and magazines, “I kind of love it.”