Social Media Is Now Universal (Among Young Brits, Anyway)

Beginning about a decade ago, rates of social media usage began to skyrocket, especially among young adults, reflecting first the meteoric rise and fall of MySpace, and then the meteoric rise and rise of Facebook. Inevitably, however, growth rates began to slow as all the easy converts were won over, leaving a minority of holdouts who either didn’t see any utility in social media or simply didn’t have access to the Internet.

Well, time and technology have continued chipping away at those residual non-users, as demographic change has bumped some of the skeptics up into older age brackets and growing Internet penetration has brought more people online. Now social media is effectively universal among teens and young adults, at least in Britain.

According to a survey of 1,512 British adults by the UK communications regulatory authority, Ofcom, fully 99% of Britons ages 16-24 say they use social media at least once a week – a remarkable figure considering the size, diversity, and differing material circumstances of the population in question. In this age group social media usage crosses class, education, gender, religion, immigrant status – a rare unifying factor in a sometimes divided society.

And older demos aren’t far behind: according to Ofcom 84% of Britons ages 25-34 use social media weekly, along with 77% of Brits ages 35-44, 64% of those ages 45-54, and 51% of those 55 and up. Across all age groups, almost two-thirds (64%) of British adults are weekly social media users.

In terms of time spent, unsurprisingly social media claims the largest share among the younger age groups, at 2 hours and 26 minutes per day for Brits ages 16-24, or 18% of their total media time. Ofcom also indicated that the rise of social media is displacing other forms of electronic communication among young Brits, who are spending less time on the phone and with email.

Also predictably, Facebook is the most popular social network in Britain – but there are some ominous signs its dominance may be fading. The social network can still claim a total audience of 38.9 million people in Britain in 2016, but that’s down 3.1 million from 2015, representing an 8% drop in terms of the total population. Meanwhile Twitter’s reach fell from 21.6 million to 20.9 million, or 46% to 42% of the population.

On the other hand a number of social networks are increasing their share, with Instagram adding two million British users to reach 16.5 million, increasing its reach from 30% to 33% of the population. Similarly Pinterest grew from 9.4 million to 11.5 million users, increasing its reach from 20% to 23%.

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