Social media is maturing as retirees flock online

The number of American adults using social media is now 65%, up from just 7% in 2005

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 12, 2015
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This should come as no shock to anyone who uses social media, but it's no longer something just the young people use. In fact, I'd say that the older people I'm friends with on Facebook use it even more than people my age, and a much more than people who are younger. Oh, how they love those inspirational quotes!

Of course, that's anecdotal. Now we have definitive proof that, yes, the adults are taking over.

Nearly two-third, 65%, of all American adults are now using some kind of social media, according to a report out from Pew.

When broken down by age, those in the young adults category, meaning ages 18 to 29 (oh my god, I have less than a year before the term "young" gets taken away from me!) are the most likely to use social media, with the number hitting 90%. But take a look at the other group that is seeing a spike in users:

That's right, it's the 65 and older crowd, which has more than tripled since 2010 when 11% used social media. Now that number is 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.

This is significant for a couple of reasons.

First of all, when Pew first started looking into these numbers in 2005, only 7% of adults were using social media. Of course, at the time their options were much more limited. Facebook was stil relatively new, MySpace was dying, Twitter didn't even exist yet and sites like Snapchat and Pinterest were just a gleam in their founder's eyes.

Secondly, unlike previous Pew reports, which looked at the percentage of adult Internet users, this is a percentage of all adults in the United States, whether they are on the Internet or not.

While the report does not give a breakdown of which social media site these adults are flock to, we all know which one it is.

In a report from January of this year, Pew did do that breakdown and, of course, Facebook is now the most popular social media site among adults, with 56% of adults 65 and older. That number was just 10% for Twitter, 6% for Instagram, 17% for Pinterest and 21% for LinkedIn.

Facebook has long held the perception, fairly or unfairly, that it has a "teen problem." Reports from a couple of years ago were already showing interest among teens in "established social media" was already declining, something that those of us who are getting older might see as a good thing, but which is likely not from the point of view of the company.

Think of social media companies sort of like tobacco companies: they want to hook you in when you're young. I started using Facebook when I was 18 years old. For me, it's established behavior in a way that other sites, including Twitter, never will be.

Facebook also relies on advertising dollars for it's, admittedly enormous, revenue. As the television world has so often told us, those young people, with their reckless spending and lack of responsibility, are a coveted key demo because they will go out and spend their money in a way that someone with bills, and kids, probably will not.

There may be a benefit to Facebook here, though, as older adults, who have retired and whose kids are out of the house, have more disposable income than their younger counterparts. So they can buy more expensive things. So if you start to see advertising on Facebook for luxury items, like new cars and high tech devices, then you'll know why.

It's only when you start seeing ads for Lipitor and denture cream that Facebook should really start to worry.

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