While a majority of US adults are using social media (65%), and a similar number say they have received a positive benefit from its use, adoption is not consistent across the board, according to results of a new Harris Poll. Rather, younger Americans claim positive benefits as a result of their social media use much more often than do older adults.
For example, poll results indicate a majority of Echo Boomers (those 18-33) say they have received a positive suggestion for something to try from their activity on social media (59%), compared to 44% of Gen Xers (those 34-45), one-third of Baby Boomers (those 46-64) (34%), and just one in five Matures (those 65 and older) (19%).
Similarly, one-quarter of Echo Boomers have found a job opportunity through social media (24%), while only one in 10 Baby Boomers say the same (11%).
2 in 5 SocNet Users Take Offense
Despite all of the benefits people are receiving from their social media use, similar numbers say they have suffered negative consequences from this activity, such as the two in five social media users who say they have been offended by posts, comments or pictures they’ve seen (43%) and the quarter who say that unintended persons have viewed links or comments they’ve posted (26%).
Fewer social media users say they have suffered the more serious consequences of getting in trouble with school or work, or losing a potential job opportunity because of comments or pictures they posted online (7% for both).
Despite younger Americans receiving benefits from social media use more often than older adults, younger Americans also suffer the consequences of social media use at a greater rate. This may, in part, be due to younger Americans greater use of social media overall, which could expose them to both the benefits and consequences of what’s currently available.
Privacy Setting Benefits Widely Seen
Social media networks are increasingly offering privacy settings to combat the negative experiences some users have already experienced, and to prevent others from taking place. When social media users were asked if potentially negative experiences can be prevented through the use of these privacy settings, more than three-quarters agreed that they can be (78%) with three in 10 strongly agreeing (28%).
In addition, 71% of social media users are confident that their own privacy settings operate in the way they intend, but only one in five say they are very confident (18%). While a quarter of social media users are not confident in their privacy settings (25%), it seems that almost all social media users are at least trying to use these options for security assurance, as only 5% of social media users say they do not use any privacy settings at all.
Similarly to the other areas of social media explored, younger adults who use social media feel more strongly both that privacy settings can prevent negative consequences (82% of Echo Boomers say this, compared to 70% of Matures) and that they are confident in their own privacy settings (78% of Echo Boomers, compared to 61% of Baby Boomers).
Older SocNet Usage Dramatically Rises
While overall social networking use by online American adults has grown from 35% in 2008 to 61% in 2010, the increase is even more dramatic among older adults, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. In particular, the rate of online social networking approximately quadrupled among Older Boomers (9% to 43%) and the GI Generation (4% to 16%).
Despite the dramatic uptick in social networking among older adults, members of the Millennial generation still enjoy a healthy lead among all age groups in social network use, with 83% of online adults from 18-33 engaging in social networking. This increased about 24% from 67% in 2008.
Gen X has the second-highest social networking rate, 62%, up 73% from two years ago. The rate among Younger Boomers increased by a factor of 2.5, rising from 20% to 50%, while it tripled among the Silent Generation, going from 11% to 34%.
About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 6 to 13, 2010 among 2,331 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.