Social Networkers Under A Microscope

According to a new survey from The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, designed to examine the social impact of widespread use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter, Facebook dominates the SNS space with 92% of SNS users using Facebook,  29% use MySpace, 18% used LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter.

There is considerable variance in the way people use various social networking sites, says the report: 52% of Facebook users and 33% of Twitter users engage with the platform daily, while only 7% of MySpace and 6% of LinkedIn users do the same. On Facebook on an average day:

  • 15% of Facebook users update their own status
  • 22% comment on another's post or status
  • 20% comment on another user's photos
  • 26% "Like" another user's content
  • 10% send another user a private message

In this Pew survey, 79% of American adults said they used the Internet and nearly half of adults, or 59% of internet users, say they use at least one SNS. This is close to double the 26% of adults (34% of internet users) who used a SNS in 2008. The average age of adult SNS users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010. Over half of all adult SNS users are now over the age of 35. 56% of SNS users now are female.

Facebook dominates the SNS space in this survey:

  • 92% of SNS users are on Facebook
  • 29% use MySpace
  • 18% used LinkedIn
  • 13% use Twitter

There is considerable variance in the way people use various social networking sites: 52% of Facebook users and 33% of Twitter users engage with the platform daily, while only 7% of MySpace and 6% of LinkedIn users do the same.

The study found that the typical internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people can be trusted. Further, Facebook users are even more likely to be trusting. Regression analysis found that a Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as non-internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.

The average American has just over two discussion confidants, that is, people with whom they discuss important matters. This is a modest, but significantly larger number than the average of 1.93 core ties reported in 2008. Controlling for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.

On a scale of 100, the average American scored 75/100 on a scale of total support, 75/100 on emotional support (such as receiving advice), 76/100 in companionship (such as having people to spend time with), and 75/100 in instrumental aid (such as having someone to help if they are sick in bed). Internet users in general score 3 points higher in total support, 6 points higher in companionship, and 4 points higher in instrumental support.

A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score:

  • An additional 5 points higher in total support
  • 5 points higher in emotional support, and
  • 5 points higher in companionship

than internet users of similar demographic characteristics.

In the study, the average Facebook user has 229 Facebook friends. They reported that their friends list contains:

  • 22% people from high school
  • 12% extended family
  • 10% coworkers
  • 9% college friends
  • 8% immediate family
  • 7% people from voluntary groups
  • 2% neighbors

Over 31% of Facebook friends cannot be classified into these categories. However, only 7% of Facebook friends are people users have never met in person, and only 3% are people who have met only one time. The remainder is friends-of-friends and social ties that are not currently active relationships, but "dormant" ties that may, at some point in time, become an important source of information.

Measuring "perspective taking," or the ability of people to consider multiple points of view, there is no evidence that SNS users are any more likely than others to cocoon themselves in social networks of like-minded and similar people, as some have feared. In fact, MySpace users have significantly higher levels of perspective taking. The average adult scored 64/100 on a scale of perspective taking, using regression analysis to control for demographic factors, a MySpace user who uses the site a half dozen times per month tends to score about 8 points higher on the scale.

Most online Americans use at least one social networking site, and the demographics of the SNS population are shifting to older users. Internet users of all ages are more likely to use a SNS today than they were in 2008. However, the increase in SNS use has been most pronounced among those who are over the age of 35.

Age Distribution Of Social Networking Site Users In 2008 And 2010

 

% Of Social Networking Site Users In Each Age Group

Year

Age 18-22

23-35

36-49

50-65

65+

2008

28%

40%

22%

9%

2%

2010

16

32

26

20

6

Source: PewResearch, June 2011

  

Age Distribution By Social Networking Site Platform

 

% Of SNS Users by Site In Each Age Group

Site

Age 18-22

23-35

36-49

50-65

65+

MySpace

29%

42%

17%

10%

3%

Facebook

16

33

25

19

6

LinkedIn

6

36

32

23

4

Twitter

26

34

24

13

4

Source: PewResearch, June 2011

 

Education Distribution By Social Networking Site Platform

 

% Of SNS Users By Site

Education

MySpace

Facebook

LinkedIn

Twitter

Other SNS

Less than high school

11%

5%

2%

6%

7%

High school

35%

26%

7%

16%

36%

Trade or some college

36%

34%

16%

39%

32%

Bachelor's Degree

12%

20%

37%

21%

14%

Graduate School

6%

15%

38%

18%

11%

Source: PewResearch, June 2011

 

Race And Ethnicity By Social Networking Site Platform

 

% Of Users By SNS

Ethnicity

MySpace

Facebook

LinkedIn

Twitter

Other SNS

White

70%

78%

85%

71%

68%

Black

16%

9%

2%

9%

13%

Hispanic

12%

9%

4%

12%

9%

Other Race

14%

12%

13%

21%

19%

Source: PewResearch, June 2011

There is notable variation in the frequency of use of SNS. Facebook and Twitter are used much more frequently by their users than LinkedIn and MySpace. 52% of Facebook users and 33% of Twitter users engage with the platform daily, while only 7% of MySpace users and 6% of LinkedIn users do the same. Only 6% of Facebook users use this platform less than once per month.

Frequency Of Use For Users Of Different Social Networking Site Platforms

 

% Of Users By Site

Frequency of Use

MySpace

Facebook

LinkedIn

Twitter

Other SNS

Several times a day

3%

31%

3%

20%

15%

About once a day

5%

21%

3%

13%

17%

3-5 days a week

2%

15%

4%

6%

14%

1-2 days a week

17%

17%

18%

9%

16%

Every few weeks

12%

11%

28%

12%

19%

Less often

33%

5%

35%

23%

14%

Never

29%

1%

9%

18%

5%

Source: PewResearch, June 2011

Social network services (SNS) have a number of common features. These include the ability of users to create a list of "friends," update their "status," to comment on other users' statuses and content, to indicate that they like another user's content, and to send private messages.

The report concludes with these observations:

  • Americans have more close social ties than they did two years ago, and they are less socially isolated. Frequent use of Facebook is associated with having more overall close ties.
  • Only a small fraction of Facebook friends are people whom users have never met or met only once.
  • Facebook users are more trusting than similar Americans. MySpace users have a greater propensity to take multiple viewpoints. Facebook users have more social support, and they are much more politically engaged compared with Americans of a similar age and education.
  • The likelihood of an American experiencing a deficit in social support, having less exposure to diverse others, not being able to consider opposing points of view, being untrusting, or otherwise being disengaged from their community and American society generally is unlikely to be a result of how they use technology.

For additional information from PewResearch, please visit here.

Recommend (24)