October 8, 2015

Social Media Usage: 2005-2015

65% of adults now use social networking sites – a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade

Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites, up from 7% when Pew Research Center began systematically tracking social media usage in 2005. Pew Research reports have documented in great detail how the rise of social media has affected such things as work, politics and political deliberation, communications patterns around the globe, as well as 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.

Social Networking Use Has Shot Up in Past Decade

Year Internet Users All Adults
2005 10 7
2006 16 11
2008 34 25
2009 50 38
2010 60 46
2011 65 50
2012 67 55
2013 73 62
2014 74 62
2015 76 65

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

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 2013.1 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 here are for social media usage among all adults, not just among those Americans who are internet users. In many previous Pew Research reports, the share of social media users has been reported as the proportion of internet users who had adopted such sites, rather than the full adult population, which continues to include a relatively small share (currently 15%) who still remain offline. In this report, a broader picture of the American landscape is presented, and so the figures are based on the entire adult population.

Across demographic groups, a number of trends emerge in this analysis of social media usage:

  • Age differences: Seniors make strides – Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media – fully 90% do. Still, 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.
  • Gender differences: Women and men use social media at similar rates – Women were 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.
  • Socio-economic differences: Those with higher education levels and household income lead the way – Over the past decade, it has consistently been the case that those in higher-income households were more likely to use social media. More than half (56%) of those living in the lowest-income households now use social media, though growth has leveled off in the past few years. Turning to educational attainment, a similar pattern is observed. 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 group: 65% of whites, 65% of Hispanics and 56% of African-Americans use social media today.
  • Community differences: More than half of rural residents now use social media – 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 is an overview of changes over time in social media by various demographic groups. A full archive of Pew Research Center reports on different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn as well as about social media usage on mobile devices in general can be found at: http://www.pewinternet.org/topics/social-networking/.

Social Media Usage by Age: Ubiquitous Among Youngest Adults, Notable Among Older Adults

 
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

Year 18-29 30-49 50-64 65 or older
2005 12 8 5 2
2006 41 6 3 0
2008 63 27 9 2
2009 72 44 22 7
2010 78 53 33 11
2011 80 60 37 13
2012 83 67 43 19
2013 88 73 52 26
2014 84 77 52 27
2015 90 77 51 35

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

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.

Social Media Usage by Gender: A Shifting Balance Over Time, With Parity Today

In 2005, 8% of men and 6% of women used social media.

Women and Men Use Social Networking Sites at Comparable Rates

Year Female Male
2005 6 8
2006 10 13
2008 26 24
2009 40 36
2010 50 42
2011 52 48
2012 59 51
2013 65 59
2014 63 60
2015 68 62

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

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.

Social Media Usage by Educational Attainment: Those With Higher Education Levels More Likely to be Social Media Users

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.

Those With Lower Levels of Education Are Less Likely to Use Social Media

Year College graduate or more Some college / Associate degree High school graduate or less
2005 12 8 4
2006 9 17 9
2008 29 32 20
2009 49 47 28
2010 56 55 35
2011 61 61 39
2012 65 65 44
2013 72 69 51
2014 69 71 50
2015 76 70 54

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

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.

Social Media Usage by Household Income: Those Living in Affluent Households More Likely to Be Social Media Users

There were modest differences by household income when Pew Research first began measuring social media usage in 2005: 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.

Those in Higher Income Households Lead the Way

Year Less than $30K $30K-$49,999 $50K-$74,999 $75K+
2005 4 8 8 12
2006 8 16 9 10
2008 24 28 27 30
2009 33 41 44 50
2010 39 49 52 58
2011 42 57 55 65
2012 50 58 59 69
2013 57 63 69 72
2014 58 64 67 74
2015 56 69 72 78

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

Those differences have persisted even as each group has seen dramatic growth in usage.

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.

Social Media Usage by Race/Ethnicity: Consistent Similarities

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.

Racial Differences Not Very Evident as Social Media Usage Has Grown

Year White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Hispanic
2005 7 6 10
2006  9 11
2008 22 26 36
2009 39 36 37
2010 46 43 45
2011 50 48 48
2012 55 52 54
2013 61 60 65
2014 59 61 66
2015 65 56 65

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

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.

Social Media Usage by Community Type: More Than Half of Rural Residents Now Use Social Media

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.

Rural Citizens Have Consistently Lagged Behind

Year Urban Suburban Rural
2005 9 7 5
2006 14 10 10
2008 28 24 18
2009 37 37 28
2010 49 47 37
2011 53 51 43
2012 58 57 48
2013 65 62 55
2014 63 64 53
2015 64 68 58

Source: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015. No data are available for 2007.

Pew Research Center

  1. The data reported here result from a general question about whether people use social networking sites of any kind, rather than an aggregation of individual site usage. No data is available from 2007.