September 13, 2012

Photos and Videos as Social Currency Online

Online Life in Pictures

Creators and Curators

Photos and videos have become key social currencies online.

  • 46% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created. We call them creators.
  • 41% of adult internet users take photos or videos that they have found online and repost them on sites designed for sharing images with many people. We call them curators.

The creator group is made up of those who have shared photos they have taken themselves (45% of internet users have done that) and those who have shared videos they have created themselves (18% of internet users have done that). If a person did either one of those two activities—and many do both of them—that person was considered an online image creator.

The curator group is made up of those who have taken photos they found online and posted them on a site that is used for sharing images with others (35% of internet users have done that) and those who have taken videos they found online and posted them on a video-sharing site that is used for sharing videos with others (25% of internet users have done that). If a person did either of those two activities— and a number do both of them— that person was considered an online image curator.

Overall, 56% of internet users do at least one of these creating or curating activities and 32% of internet users do both creating and curating activities.

The rise of Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr

This is the first time that the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has asked questions about Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, so it is not possible to compare these data to previous material. It is safe to say, though, that the rise of smartphones is a major part of the story because those phones have cameras built into them, making it easy to take and share self-made pictures online. It is also safe to say that the rise of social media, especially YouTube and newer services like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr has made curating activities easier because they are organized for easy image and video-sharing.

In a phone survey of 1,005 adults ages 18 and older between August 2-5, 2012 the Pew Internet Project found that:

  • 12% of online adults say they use Pinterest, which is dominated by women. Nearly a fifth of online women (19%) use Pinterest, a site that allows users to organize and share content from around the web by “pinning” photos and images into “pinboards” that are organized by categories or themes.  Each “pin”, which includes a caption, links back to the site from which it originated.
  • 12% of online adults say they use Instagram, which is dominated by young adults. Some 27% of the internet users between ages 18-29 use Instagram, which is a photo-sharing service built around a smartphone app that allows users to filter or tint photos they’ve taken and then share them with their networks. Facebook recently bought the service.
  • 5% of online adults say they use Tumblr. Some 11% of young adults use this social blogging service that allows for easy sharing of various types of posts, including text, photos, quotes, links, music, and video.

This survey also found that:

  • 66% of online adults use Facebook
  • 20% use LinkedIn
  • 16% use Twitter

Demographic data on users of each service are broken out in tables in this report.

About the survey

A nationally representative phone survey of 1,005 adults (ages 18+) was taken August 2-5, 2012. It was conducted in English on landline and cell phones. The sample contained 799 internet users, who were asked questions about their online activities. The margin of error for the full sample is ± 3.7 percentage points. The margin of error for the internet sample is ±3.8 percentage points.

One special note on demographic analysis in this sample: This survey had 73 African-American internet user respondents and 72 English-speaking Hispanic internet user respondents. Those are not big enough sample sizes to do independent statistical analyses. As a result, there are no data in the demographic tables about race and ethnicity.