Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have become so popular in American society that almost two out of three adults now use those online services, according to a recent study from Pew Research Center. That’s up from a mere 7% a decade ago, when Pew first started tracking the trend.
Overall, the number of adults on social media sites seems to have reached something of a plateau, with numbers leveling off since 2013. There has been continued growth, however, among demographics that were late adopters of social media, particularly older Americans.
Young adults are still the most likely to use social media, with fully 90% of all those age 18 to 29 reporting that they use the services. Among those 65 and older, 35% use social media, compared with just 2% in 2005. These numbers include all adults, not just those with Internet access. (Approximately 15% of Americans do not use the Internet at all.)
Indeed, social media has become so ubiquitous that Facebook has deployed a Safety Check feature in the wake of high-profile public safety events, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. The feature proactively queries Facebook users near those events if they are safe, and allows them to designate their safe status on their profile pages.
Pew Research has been asking the public about its social media usage since 2005 and has conducted interviews with 62,000 adults. Over the years, the examples used in its social media survey have evolved. In 2005, Pew asked, “Do you ever use online social or professional networking sites like Friendster or LinkedIn?” In 2006, the suggested services were MySpace, Facebook or Friendster. In 2008, the examples were MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. In 2012, the examples were Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus, and in 2015 they were Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
While women started off as more frequent users of social media, the current usage rate is roughly equal for both genders: 68% of women and 62% of men.
One trend that has remained consistent since 2005 is that those with more education tend to use social media at higher rates. About 76% of those with a college degree or post-graduate education are on social media, while 70% of those with some college education use the services.
Among those who have a high school diploma or less, only 54% use social media. However, the use of social media by that demographic group has grown dramatically, up from 4% in 2005.
Higher income levels also correlate with higher rates of social media adoption. About 78% of those in the highest-income brackets use social media, compared with 56% among the lowest-earning households.
On the other hand, differences among social media users based on race and ethnicity tend to be minimal. About 65% of whites and Hispanics use social media, compared to 56% of African-Americans.