Pew: Social networking sites hit new milestones

Faith Merino · August 26, 2011 · Short URL:

For the first time ever, more than half of all adults now use social networking sites

For the first time since the Pew Research Center began tracking social network use, more than 50% of all adults use social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.  This translates to 65% of adult Internet users, which is up from 61% a year ago. 

It was a very different story six years ago, when Pew began tracking social network usage.  In 2005 (when LiveJournal was big and MySpace was just taking off), only 8% of adult Internet users had ever used a social networking site.  But the concept was on the move and that number doubled the following year.  By 2008, 29% of all adult Internet users had used a social networking site.  That also happened to be the year that Facebook opened its gates to users without a .edu email address, after which the number of adults using social networking sites jumped to 46% in 2009, and then 61% in 2010.

Now, on any given day 43% of all adults are on a social networking site, compared to 27% in 2009.  Interestingly, older Internet users—those 65 and over—saw the highest growth rate, jumping to 33% in 2011 from 26% in 2010.

“The graying of social networking sites continues, but the oldest users are still far less likely to be making regular use of these tools,” said Mary Madden, a Senior Research Specialist with the Project and co-author of the report. “While seniors are testing the waters, many Baby Boomers are beginning to make a trip to the social media pool part of their daily routine.”

While seniors saw the most growth among Internet users, in terms of the adult population as a whole, those over the age of 30 accounted for the most growth.  Some 70% of 30- to 49-year-olds say they’ve used a social networking site, as have 51% of those aged 50-64. Younger users remain the top SNS users, however, with 83% of those aged 18-29 having used a social networking site before. 

And in a testament to just how boring and uncreative social network users can be when asked to give a one word description of their experiences with social networking sites, the most common response was “good.”  Awesome.  Other words used to describe social networking sites include “fun,” “great,” “convenient,” and “interesting,” while a few wordsmiths threw out gems like “necessity,” “astounding,” and “empowering.”


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