Pew Releases New Social Media Data

Social networking sites and our lives is  the latest analysis of social media released by Pew Internet & American Life.

The study looks at the  social impact of widespread use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. Do these technologies isolate people and truncate their relationships? Or are there benefits associated with being connected to others in this way?

The the study explores people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.  

The number of those using social networking sites has nearly doubled since 2008 and the population of SNS users has gotten older.

In this Pew Internet sample, 79% of American adults said they used the internet and nearly half of adults (47%), or 59% of internet users, say they use at least one of SNS. This is close to double the 26% of adults (34% of internet users) who used a SNS in 2008. The average age of adult-SNS users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010.  Over half of all adult SNS users are now over the age of 35. Some 56% of SNS users now are female.

Facebook dominates the SNS space in this survey: 92% of SNS users are on Facebook; 29% use MySpace, 18% used LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter.

There is considerable variance in the way people use various social networking sites: 52% of Facebook users and 33% of Twitter users engage with the platform daily, while only 7% of MySpace and 6% of LinkedIn users do the same.

On Facebook on an average day:

  • 15% of Facebook users update their own status.
  • 22% comment on another’s post or status.
  • 20% comment on another user’s photos.
  • 26% “Like” another user’s content.
  • 10% send another user a private message

Facebook users are more trusting than others

The typical internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people can be trusted. Further, Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as non-internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.

Facebook users have more close relationships.

The average American has just over two discussion confidants (2.16) – that is, people with whom they discuss important matters. This is a modest, but significantly larger number than the average of 1.93 core ties reported in 2008. Someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.  

Facebook revives “dormant” relationships

In our sample, the average Facebook user has 229 Facebook friends. They reported that their friends list contains:

  • 22% people from high school
  • 12% extended family
  • 10% coworkers
  • 9% college friends
  • 8% immediate family
  • 7% people from voluntary groups
  • 2% neighbors

Over 31% of Facebook friends cannot be classified into these categories. However, only 7% of Facebook friends are people users have never met in person, and only 3% are people who have met only one time. The remainder is friends-of-friends and social ties that are not currently active relationships, but “dormant” ties that may, at some point in time, become an important source of information.

Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties.

Looking only at those people that SNS users report as their core discussion confidants, 40% of users have friended all of their closest confidants. This is a substantial increase from the 29% of users who reported in our 2008 survey that they had friended all of their core confidants.