The rise in the use of social network sites (SNS) among internet users over the past 7 years has been dramatic. In 2005 less than 10% of any age group on the internet reported using a SNS, and by 2012 two-thirds of all internet users said that they use at least one SNS. Note that I use SNS here as suggested by boyd and Ellison (2007) who make the important distinction between social networking sites in which initiating relationships between strangers is a major activity (such as on dating sites) and social network sites that allow people to make their networks visible to others. It may seem a small point unless you are the user.
Today Duggan and Brenner (2013) report the demographic characteristics of the users of SNS from the latest Pew Internet and American Life survey. They note statistically significant differences for gender with women more likely to be users than men (71% to 62%); age differences predictably favored younger age groups being more involved with SNS; and people living in urban areas were more likely than people living in suburban or rural areas to be using SNS. No differences in SNS use were noted for race/ethnicity, education attainment or household income.
Digging deeper into SNS use, 67% of all SNS users were on Facebook and it is especially popular with women and adults ages 18-29 (though 57% of 50-64 year-olds, and 35% of people age 65+ are using it as well). Twitter is used by 16% of internet users; the 18-29 year olds, African-Americans and urban residents were significantly more likely to use it than other groups. Women, adults under 50 years of age, whites and people with some college education or an annual household income greater than $50,000 are more likely to use Pinterest (overall it was used by 15% of all internet users). Using Instagram is reported by 13% of internet users, and was especially appealing to the 18-29 age group, African-Americans, Latinos, women and urban residents.
The popularity of SNS sites seems to be plateauing, and even declining slightly, among all age groups. There is also selection and concentration of SNS users occurring as striking differences do emerge among users of specific SNS. You might also want to compare these figures with the SNS demos we were talking about four years ago.
boyd dm, Ellison NB. Social network sites: Definition, history and scholarship. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 13(1).
Duggan M, Brenner J. (2013). The demographics of social media users – 2012. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project.