SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE WAY UP
 
 
Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites, up from 7% when Pew Research Center began systematically tracking social media usage in 2005. Pew Research reports have documented in great detail how the rise of social media has affected such things as work, politics and political deliberation, communications patterns around the globe, as well as the way people get and share information about health, civic life, news consumption, communities, teenage life, parenting, dating and even people’s level of stress.

Social Networking Use Has Shot Up in Past Decade

 
 
 
YearInternet UsersAll Adults
2005107
20061611
20083425
20095038
20106046
20116550
20126755
20137362
20147462
20157665
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
A special analysis of 27 national surveys of Americans across the past decade documents this substantial spread of technology throughout the population, although the overall number of users of social networking sites has leveled off since 2013.1 At the same time, there continues to be growth in social media usage among some groups that were not among the earliest adopters, including older Americans.
The figures reported here are for social media usage among all adults, not just among those Americans who are internet users. In many previous Pew Research reports, the share of social media users has been reported as the proportion of internet users who had adopted such sites, rather than the full adult population, which continues to include a relatively small share (currently 15%) who still remain offline. In this report, a broader picture of the American landscape is presented, and so the figures are based on the entire adult population.
Across demographic groups, a number of trends emerge in this analysis of social media usage:
  • Age differences: Seniors make strides – Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media – fully 90% do. Still, usage among those 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010 when 11% used social media. Today, 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.
  • Gender differences: Women and men use social media at similar rates – Women were more likely than men to use social networking sites for a number of years, although since 2014 these differences have been modest. Today, 68% of all women use social media, compared with 62% of all men.
  • Socio-economic differences: Those with higher education levels and household income lead the way – Over the past decade, it has consistently been the case that those in higher-income households were more likely to use social media. More than half (56%) of those living in the lowest-income households now use social media, though growth has leveled off in the past few years. Turning to educational attainment, a similar pattern is observed. Those with at least some college experience have been consistently more likely than those with a high school degree or less to use social media over the past decade. 2013 was the first year that more than half of those with a high school diploma or less used social media.
  • Racial and ethnic similarities: There are not notable differences by racial or ethnic group: 65% of whites, 65% of Hispanics and 56% of African-Americans use social media today.
  • Community differences: More than half of rural residents now use social media – Those who live in rural areas are less likely than those in suburban and urban communities to use social media, a pattern consistent over the past decade. Today, 58% of rural residents, 68% of suburban residents, and 64% of urban residents use social media.
What follows is an overview of changes over time in social media by various demographic groups. A full archive of Pew Research Center reports on different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn as well as about social media usage on mobile devices in general can be found at: http://www.pewinternet.org/topics/social-networking/.

Social Media Usage by Age: Ubiquitous Among Youngest Adults, Notable Among Older Adults

Age is strongly correlated with social media usage: Those ages 18 to 29 have always been the most likely users of social media by a considerable margin. Today, 90% of young adults use social media, compared with 12% in 2005, a 78-percentage point increase. At the same time, there has been a 69-point bump among those ages 30-49, from 8% in 2005 to 77% today.

Young Adults Still Are the Most Likely to Use Social Media

 

 

Year18-2930-4950-6465 or older
200512852
200641630
2008632792
20097244227
201078533311
201180603713
201283674319
201388735226
201484775227
201590775135
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
While usage among young adults started to leveled off as early as 2010, since then there has been a surge in usership among those 65 and older. In 2005, 2% of seniors used social media, compared with 35% today.

Social Media Usage by Gender: A Shifting Balance Over Time, With Parity Today

In 2005, 8% of men and 6% of women used social media.

Women and Men Use Social Networking Sites at Comparable Rates

 
 

 

YearFemaleMale
200568
20061013
20082624
20094036
20105042
20115248
20125951
20136559
20146360
20156862
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
Starting in 2009, women started using social media at slightly higher rates than men, although this balance has shrunk yet again in recent years. Today, 68% of women and 62% of men report social media usage, a difference that is not statistically significant.

Social Media Usage by Educational Attainment: Those With Higher Education Levels More Likely to be Social Media Users

Those who have attended at least some college are more likely than those with a high school diploma or less to use social media, a trend that has been consistent since 2005. In that year, 4% of those with a high school diploma or less used social media, along with 8% of those who attended some college and 12% of college graduates.

Those With Lower Levels of Education Are Less Likely to Use Social Media

 

 

YearCollege graduate or moreSome college / Associate degreeHigh school graduate or less
20051284
20069179
2008293220
2009494728
2010565535
2011616139
2012656544
2013726951
2014697150
2015767054
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
Currently adoption rates for social media stand at 76% for those with college or graduate degrees, 70% of those with some college education and 54% for those who have a high school diploma or less.
At the same time, the share of those with a high school diploma or less who use social media has grown more than tenfold over the past decade.

Social Media Usage by Household Income: Those Living in Affluent Households More Likely to Be Social Media Users

There were modest differences by household income when Pew Research first began measuring social media usage in 2005: 4% of those living in households earning less than $30,000 used social media, compared with 12% of those living in household earning $75,000 or more.

Those in Higher Income Households Lead the Way

 

 

YearLess than $30K$30K-$49,999$50K-$74,999$75K+
200548812
2006816910
200824282730
200933414450
201039495258
201142575565
201250585969
201357636972
201458646774
201556697278
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
Those differences have persisted even as each group has seen dramatic growth in usage.
Today, 78% of those living in the highest-income households use social media, compared with 56% of those in the lowest-income households – a 22-point difference.

Social Media Usage by Race/Ethnicity: Consistent Similarities

When it comes to race and ethnicity, trends in social media adoption are defined by similarities, not differences. Whites, African-Americans and Hispanics have broadly adopted social media at the same brisk pace.

Racial Differences Not Very Evident as Social Media Usage Has Grown

Created with Highcharts 4.1.4Among all American adults, % who use social networking sites, byracial/ethnic groupAmong all American adults, % who use social networking sites, by racial/ethnic groupWhite, non-HispanicBlack, non-HispanicHispanic20062008201020122014020406080
 

 

YearWhite, non-HispanicBlack, non-HispanicHispanic
20057610
2006 911
2008222636
2009393637
2010464345
2011504848
2012555254
2013616065
2014596166
2015655665
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
In 2005, 6% of African-Americans, 7% of whites and 10% of Hispanics used social networking sites. Today, those figures stand at 56% of African-Americans and 65% of both whites and Hispanics.

Social Media Usage by Community Type: More Than Half of Rural Residents Now Use Social Media

Adults who live in rural communities have historically been the least likely to use social media. In 2005, 5% of rural residents, 7% of suburban residents and 9% of urban residents reported social media usage. Today, 58% of rural residents, 68% of suburban residents and 64% of urban residents use social media.

Rural Citizens Have Consistently Lagged Behind

Created with Highcharts 4.1.4Among all American adults, % who use social networking sites, by communitytypeAmong all American adults, % who use social networking sites, by community typeUrbanSuburbanRural200620082010201220140204060802011Rural: 43
 

 

YearUrbanSuburbanRural
2005975
2006141010
2008282418
2009373728
2010494737
2011535143
2012585748
2013656255
2014636453
2015646858
Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.
Pew Research Center
  1. The data reported here result from a general question about whether people use social networking sites of any kind, rather than an aggregation of individual site usage. No data is available from 2007.