February 3, 2010

Social Media and Young Adults

Overview

Since 2006, blogging has dropped among teens and young adults while simultaneously rising among older adults. As the tools and technology embedded in social networking sites change, and use of the sites continues to grow, youth may be exchanging ‘macro-blogging’ for microblogging with status updates.

Blogging has declined in popularity among both teens and young adults since 2006. Blog commenting has also dropped among teens.

  • 14% of online teens now say they blog, down from 28% of teen internet users in 2006.
  • This decline is also reflected in the lower incidence of teen commenting on blogs within social networking websites; 52% of teen social network users report commenting on friends’ blogs, down from the 76% who did so in 2006.
  • By comparison, the prevalence of blogging within the overall adult internet population has remained steady in recent years. Pew Internet surveys since 2005 have consistently found that roughly one in ten online adults maintain a personal online journal or blog.

While blogging among adults as a whole has remained steady, the prevalence of blogging within specific age groups has changed dramatically in recent years. Specifically, a sharp decline in blogging by young adults has been tempered by a corresponding increase in blogging among older adults.

  • In December 2007, 24% of online 18-29 year olds reported blogging, compared with 7% of those thirty and older.
  • By 2009, just 15% of internet users ages 18-29 maintain a blog—a nine percentage point drop in two years. However, 11% of internet users ages thirty and older now maintain a personal blog.

Both teen and adult use of social networking sites has risen significantly, yet there are shifts and some drops in the proportion of teens using several social networking site features.

  • 73% of wired American teens now use social networking websites, a significant increase from previous surveys. Just over half of online teens (55%) used social networking sites in November 2006 and 65% did so in February 2008.
  • As the teen social networking population has increased, the popularity of some sites’ features has shifted. Compared with SNS activity in February 2008, a smaller proportion of teens in mid-2009 were sending daily messages to friends via SNS, or sending bulletins, group messages or private messages on the sites.   
  • 47% of online adults use social networking sites, up from 37% in November 2008.
  • Young adults act much like teens in their tendency to use these sites. Fully 72% of online 18-29 year olds use social networking websites, nearly identical to the rate among teens, and significantly higher than the 39% of internet users ages 30 and up who use these sites.
  • Adults are increasingly fragmenting their social networking experience as a majority of those who use social networking sites – 52% – say they have two or more different profiles. That is up from 42% who had multiple profiles in May 2008. 
  • Facebook is currently the most commonly-used online social network among adults. Among adult profile owners 73% have a profile on Facebook, 48% have a profile on MySpace and 14% have a LinkedIn profile.1
  • The specific sites on which young adults maintain their profiles are different from those used by older adults: Young profile owners are much more likely to maintain a profile on MySpace (66% of young profile owners do so, compared with just 36% of those thirty and older) but less likely to have a profile on the professionally-oriented LinkedIn (7% vs. 19%). In contrast, adult profile owners under thirty and those thirty and older are equally likely to maintain a profile on Facebook (71% of young profile owners do so, compared with 75% of older profile owners).

Teens are not using Twitter in large numbers. While teens are bigger users of almost all other online applications, Twitter is an exception.

  • 8% of internet users ages 12-17 use Twitter.2 This makes Twitter as common among teens as visiting a virtual world, and far less common than sending or receiving text messages as 66% of teens do, or going online for news and political information, done by 62% of online teens.
  • Older teens are more likely to use Twitter than their younger counterparts; 10% of online teens ages 14-17 do so, compared with 5% of those ages 12-13.
  • High school age girls are particularly likely to use Twitter. Thirteen percent of online girls ages 14-17 use Twitter, compared with 7% of boys that age.
  • Using different wording, we find that 19% of adult internet users use Twitter or similar services to post short status updates and view the updates of others online.
  • Young adults lead the way when it comes to using Twitter or status updating. One-third of online 18-29 year olds post or read status updates.

Wireless internet use rates are especially high among young adults, and the laptop has replaced the desktop as the computer of choice among those under thirty.

  • 81% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are wireless internet users. By comparison, 63% of 30-49 year olds and 34% of those ages 50 and up access the internet wirelessly.
  • Roughly half of 18-29 year olds have accessed the internet wirelessly on a laptop (55%) or on a cell phone (55%), and about one quarter of 18-29 year-olds (28%) have accessed the internet wirelessly on another device such as an e-book reader or gaming device.
  • The impact of the mobile web can be seen in young adults’ computer choices. Two-thirds of 18-29 year olds (66%) own a laptop or netbook, while 53% own a desktop computer. Young adults are the only age cohort for which laptop computers are more popular than desktops.
  • African Americans adults are the most active users of the mobile web, and their use is growing at a faster pace than mobile internet use among white or Hispanic adults.

Cell phone ownership is nearly ubiquitous among teens and young adults, and much of the growth in teen cell phone ownership has been driven by adoption among the youngest teens.

  • Three-quarters (75%) of teens and 93% of adults ages 18-29 now have a cell phone.
  • In the past five years, cell phone ownership has become mainstream among even the youngest teens. Fully 58% of 12-year olds now own a cell phone, up from just 18% of such teens as recently as 2004.

Internet use is near-ubiquitous among teens and young adults. In the last decade, the young adult internet population has remained the most likely to go online.

  • 93% of teens ages 12-17 go online, as do 93% of young adults ages 18-29. One quarter (74%) of all adults ages 18 and older go online.
  • Over the past ten years, teens and young adults have been consistently the two groups most likely to go online, even as the internet population has grown and even with documented larger increases in certain age cohorts (e.g. adults 65 and older).

Our survey of teens also tracked some core internet activities by those ages 12-17 and found:

  • 62% of online teens get news about current events and politics online.
  • 48% of wired teens have bought things online like books, clothing or music, up from 31% who had done so in 2000 when we first asked about this.
  • 31% of online teens get health, dieting or physical fitness information from the internet. And 17% of online teens report they use the internet to gather information about health topics that are hard to discuss with others such as drug use and sexual health topics.
  1. Note: Because respondents were allowed to mention multiple sites on which they maintain a profile, totals may add to more than 100%.
  2. Note: The question is asked differently among teens and adults – teens were asked “Do you ever use Twitter?” while adults were asked “have you ever used Twitter or another service where you can update your status online?” which may explain some of the difference in the data between the two groups.