Older Users Get Into Social-Networking Groove

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Seniors on FacebookTHUNDER BAY – For the first time, half of adult Americans are using social-networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. That figure rises to 65% among U.S. adult Internet users, up from 61% a year ago.

While social sites still draw young people in droves, most of the growth in the last year has come from those over 30. For example, one-third of those aged 65 and older are social networking online compared to 26% a year ago.

More than half (51%) of baby boomers (aged 50-64), and 70% of those between 30 and 49 are using social-media outlets. Boomers have also caught up with younger users in the proportion that access social Web properties on a daily basis, at 60%. That’s up from less than a third a year ago.

“The graying of social-networking sites continues, but the oldest users are still far less likely to be making regular use of these tools,” said Mary Madden, a Pew senior research specialist and co-author of the report. “While seniors are testing the waters, many baby boomers are beginning to make a trip to the social-media pool part of their daily routine.”

More Americans as a whole are incorporating social networking into daily life. Overall, 43% of online adults are doing so, up from 38% a year ago. Out of all the “daily” online activities Pew asked about, only email (which 61% of Internet users access on a typical day) and search engines (59%) are used more frequently than social networking tools.

Looking at gender differences, women have been more avid social-networking users than men since 2009, according to Pew. As of May 2011, nearly seven in 10 (69%) of online women use social sites, compared with 60% of online men. Women are also more active, with almost half (49%) social networking on a typical day (48%) versus 38% of their male counterparts.

When it came to qualitative assessments of social-networking sites, positive impressions far outweighed negative ones, the study found. “Good” was the most common people used to describe their experience on social sites. Other terms used often were “fun,” “great,” “interesting” and “convenient.”

Among the negative views expressed about 20% of users, complaints were more varied. Some expressed frustration through terms like “annoying,” “overwhelming” and “confusing,” while “addictive” or “addicting” were the first words cited by others. A sizeable group also expressed ambivalence about social media, sayin their experience was simply “okay.”

The Pew findings were based on data from telephone interviews conducted from April 26 to May 22, 2011 with a sample of 2,277 adults, 18 and older.

Mark Walsh

(c) 2011 MediaPost Communications
Older Users Get Into Social-Networking Groove by Mark Walsh originally appeared in Online Media Daily on August 26, 2011.

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