MaltaToday Survey | Offline in Malta: the people who say they don't read the news or use Facebook

What Facebook? The elderly are offline

Your grandfather is very likely not to source his news online with the findings pointing towards a generational digital divide
Your grandfather is very likely not to source his news online with the findings pointing towards a generational digital divide

The next time your grandfather asks what Facebook is, do not look back at him as if he has fallen from the moon.

He is actually one of more than three quarters of elderly people who do not use Facebook.

The figure comes from a MaltaToday survey that reported how 76.3% of those aged 65 and over said they do not use Facebook when asked which language they used on the social media platform.

Your grandfather is also very likely not to source his news online with the findings pointing towards a generational digital divide.

The survey found that 60.4% of the elderly do not read the news on the internet, by far the largest proportion across all age groups.

But elderly people are not alone in shunning Facebook or not reading the news online.

A significant fraction of non-Facebook users was also registered among those aged 51 to 65, with 36.8% saying they do not use the social media platform.

This contrasts with the younger generations. Only 2.5% of those under 35 admitted to not using Facebook, increasing to 11.4% among the middle-aged.

The survey found that overall, a quarter of people do not use the social media platform.

As for reading the news online, the next largest cohort of those who do not source their news from the internet is the 51-65 age bracket. Of these, 23.4% said they do not read the news online.

In sharp contrast, only 3.5% of those aged 18-35 said they do not read news on the internet, going up to 7.4% among those aged 36 to 50.

The survey was conducted between the 23 and 27 April and its main focus was the use of Maltese and English for speaking and reading purposes.

The results concerning Facebook use are a spin-off from the main findings and further research is required to determine the reasons why the elderly do not use Facebook or read the news online.

A Eurostat survey on internet use last year had found that 51% of those aged between 65 and 74, who had used the internet in the previous three months, participated in social media networks.

Eurostat also found that 77% of internet users between 65 and 74, read online news. Both figures are much higher than the MaltaToday findings. However, the results of both surveys cannot be strictly compared.

While the Eurostat survey specifically targeted internet users, the MaltaToday survey did not ask whether people used the internet. Unlike the Eurostat findings, the percentages quoted in the MaltaToday survey are based on the whole population of the age group and not just internet users.

This explains the wide disparity between the numbers.

Who does not read books and newspapers?

Depicting carefree 20-year-olds as uninterested in books is mistaken, according to the MaltaToday survey that found older people more likely not to read books.

While only 8% of people between 18 and 35 said they do not read books, the number almost doubled in the age group immediately after (36-50).

Among the middle-aged, 14.6% said they do not read books, a percentage that remained almost constant among those aged 51-65.

The numbers almost doubled again among the elderly, with the findings showing that 27.9% of those older than 65 saying they do not read books.

Overall, 14.2% of people do not read books.

These results are a spin-off from the survey’s main findings about language use and do not provide a deep enough picture on why people do not read, or how often they do. But they do give a snapshot of who shuns books and newspapers.

Interestingly, the survey showed that men are twice more likely than women not to pick up a reading book.

And there is very little difference between people when results are analysed by political allegiance. While 15.4% of PL voters confessed to not reading books, 13.4% of PN voters admitted likewise.

And the bookworms appear to be found in Gozo and the South Eastern region. These two regions had the lowest number of people who said they do not read books - with 8.2% and 9.8% respectively. In contrast, 17.3% of people in the Western region said they do not read books.

When it comes to newspapers, the overall number of people who do not read them (14.8%) stands at par with that of books.

An equal number of males and females do not read newspapers and uniformity in numbers is by and large maintained across all age groups until 65.

Contrary to popular perception, the number of elderly who do not read newspapers is almost double that of other age groups at 23.2%.

There is also no significant difference between PL and PN voters and on a regional basis, newspapers appear to be more popular in Gozo than anywhere else.