SocNet Use Quadruples among US Adults; 35% Have Profiles

January 29, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Hispanic | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

The share of adult internet users who have a profile on a social networking site has more than quadrupled in the past four years – from 8% in 2005 to 35% in 2008 – according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey.


The survey reveals that while teens often get significant media and public-policy attention for their use of such sites, adults still make up the bulk of America’s social-networking population.

Though social networkers are equally likely to be men and women, not surprisingly, Pew finds that younger adults are much more likely than older ones to have profiles on social networks:

  • 75% of online adults 18-24 have a profile on a social network site
  • 57% of online adults 25-34 have a profile on a social network site
  • 30% of online adults 35-44 have one
  • 19% of online 45 to 54 year olds have a profile
  • 10% of online 55 to 64 year olds have a profile
  • 7% of online adults 65+ have a profile

Moreover, social network users are also more likely to be students, Pew said. More than two-thirds (68% )of full-time students and 71% of part-time students have a social network profile, while just 28% of non-student adults use social networks.


Whites are less likely than African-Americans or Hispanics to have a profile on an online social network. Nearly one third 31% of online White adults have a social networking profile, compared with 43% of African-Americans and 48% of Hispanics.

Visits to SocNets Up Too

In addition to the burgeoning number of profiles being added to social networks by adults, the number of visits on any given day also is on the rise. In February 2005, just 2% of adult internet users had visited an online social network “yesterday,” while 19% had done so in December 2008. More than one-third of adults now say they visit social networks “daily.”


Personal More Prevalent than Professional

Overall, Pew found that personal use of social networks among adults appears to be more common than professional use, both in the types of networks adults select as well as the reasons they give for using them.

According to just-released May 2008 survey findings:

  • ?50% of adult social network users have a profile on MySpace
  • 22% have a profile on Facebook
  • 6% have a profile on LinkedIn

Respondents also said that they primarily use their online social network presence/profile for explaining and maintaining the personal networks. Most adults, like teens, are using their profile/s to connect with people they already know.


  • 89% use their online profiles to keep up with friends
  • 57% use their profile to make plans with friends
  • 49% use them to make new friends

Other uses cited by respondents in the study were: Organizing with other people for an event, issue or cause; flirting with someone; promoting themselves or their work; and making new business contacts


The survey also found that when users do use social networks for professional and personal reasons, they will often maintain multiple profiles, generally on different sites. More than half (51%) of social network users have two or more online profiles, while 43% have only one online profile.

Among social network users with multiple profiles:

  • 83% have those profiles on different sites
  • 17% have those profiles on one site
  • 24% have multiple profiles so they can keep up with friends on different sites
  • 19% have multiple profiles to separate the personal and the professional
  • 6% just use different sites
  • 4% have different profiles for different parts of their personality
  • 4% have older profiles on sites they do not use anymore

Most Users are Privacy-Conscious

Regarding privacy issues, the survey found that the majority of – but not all – adult social networkers are privacy conscious:

  • 60% of adult social network users restrict access to their profiles so that only their friends can see it.
  • 36% of social network users allow anyone to see their online profile.
  • 58% of adult social network users restrict access to certain content within their profile.
  • 43% of adults think it would be pretty easy for someone to find out who they are from their profile; 23% of teens say it would be “pretty easy.”
  • 33% of adults with profiles think that they would have to work at it, but that someone could eventually find out who they are; 40% of teens say the same.
  • 20% of adults think that it would be difficult for someone to find out who they are; 36% of teens say it would be difficult for someone to find out who they are.

About the survey: Findings are based on two daily tracking surveys on Americans’ use of the Internet. The bulk of the results are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between April 8 to May 11, 2008, among a sample of 2,251 adults, ages 18+. The data on overall use of social networks and the demographics of social network users came from a national phone survey fielded from November 19 – December 20, 2008 among 2,253 Americans, including 1,650 internet users.


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