Pew: 72% of online adults now on social media

The 65 and older crowd has tripled its presence in the last four years

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 5, 2013
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I was a freshman in college when Facebook first began sweeping the nation, back when it was only available to college students. So I remember when it was actually cool to be a part of a growing network.

Then it started letting everyone on. First, it was tweens and high schoolers that began hijacking the site with the type of inane and stupid comments that only a 15 year old could come up with. Then the adults got their hands on it and suddenly my feed was being hijacked by a bunch of 40 and 50 year olds playing FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Ugh.

So just how prevalent has social media become for adults in the United States? Almost a full three quarters of them have some type of social media account, according to a new survey from Pew that was released on Monday. The survey sampled 2,252 adults, aged 18 and older.

72% of online U.S. adults use social networking sites as of May 2013.  That is up from 67% in late 2012, and it is nine times as many as were on in February 2005, when Pew found only 8% has social network accounts.

The numbers are also growing for the AARP crowd, who have tripled their numbers on social networking sites since 2009, going from just 13% to 43%.

The report also found that the use of social networking is fairly even across gender, race and annual income.

Women had a slight edge over men, 74% to 70%. Hispanics led all races with 80% having a social media account, followed by African Americans with 75% and caucasians with 70%.

When it came to annual income, 75% of those making less than $30,000 a year were on social media; followed by 72% of those making between $30,000 and $50,000; 74% of those who make between $50,000 and $75,000; and 71% who make over $75,000.

Social media, it seems, is the great equalizer.

Getting back to the growing number adults using social media sites, Pew decided to single out one network in particular for this survey: Twitter.

Twitter seems to have been a big benefiticary of more adults becoming comfortably sharing their information online, as the network has more than doubled its number of adult users since 2010.

Teens on social media

While more adults are adopting traditional social media, another narrative has begun to form: that teens in the U.S. are losing interest in these networks.

Interest among teens in each of the top social networks is now on the decline, according to a study by Piper Jaffray released in April, which ranked the importance of both social media websites and social networks for 5,200 teenagers.

Facebook saw an especially big drop off as the social media website ranked as being most important to teens, going from over 30% to just over 20% in the span of a year.

And when it came to which network was ranked as being most important, Facebook once again had a significant decline, while most networks either went up, or stayed the same.

What Piper Jaffray found was that teens wanted to find their own networks. When asked to write in their favorite social networks not mentioned on the survery, the top five were: Wanelo, Vine, Snapchat, Kik, and 4chan.

Mark Zuckerberg addressed these concerns in a conference call following the release of its earnings report last month. 

“This is difficult to measure perfectly since some young people lie about their age, but based on the best data we have, we believe we have fully penetrated the U.S. teen demographic for a while and the number of teens using Facebook on both a daily, and monthly, basis, has been steady over the past year and half.”

Still, the more adults take over the long standing networks, the more teens and younger people will see them as the establishment, forcing them to rebel against it.

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