Since Pew Research Center began systematically tracking social media usage in 2005, nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites in 2015, up from 7% when Pew Research reports began documenting in great detail how the rise of social media has affected work, politics, communications, and 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.
% Of All American Adults And Internet-Using Adults Who Use At Least One Social Networking Site
Source: Pew Research Center Surveys, October 2015
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. 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 in this report are for social media usage among all adults, not just among those Americans who are internet users. A broader picture of the American landscape is presented, and so the figures are based on the entire adult population, says the report.Across demographic groups, a number of trends emerge in this analysis of social media usage:
Fully 90% of young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media. However, 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.
Women have been 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.
Over the past decade, it has consistently been the case that those in higher-income households were more likely to use social media. Now, 56% of those living in the lowest-income households now use social media, though growth has leveled off in the past few years.
Regarding educational attainment, a similar pattern is observed, says the report. 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 groups today, finds the study: 65% of whites, 65% of Hispanics and 56% of African-Americans use social media today.
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, says the report, is an overview of changes over time in social media by various demographic groups.
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 (Among all American adults, % who use social networking sites, by age)
Age 65 or older
Source: Pew Research Center Surveys, October 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were modest differences by household income when Pew Research first began measuring social media usage in 2005, as 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
For more detailed information with charts and graphs, please visit the Pew Research Center here.