Social networking use has hit a tipping point in the U.S. For the first time ever, at least half of all adults in the U.S. use social networking sites, according to results of a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey conducted in May.
Up until the latest survey, the percentage of U.S. adults who reported using social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Myspace had been below May's 50%. Not surprisingly, the percentage of online adults who use social networking sites increased to 65% from 61% a year ago. "The pace with which new users have flocked to social networking sites has been staggering; when we first asked about social networking sites in February of 2005, just 8% of internet users – or 5% of all adults – said they used them," Pew said in the overview to its report. Pew reports that on a "typical day," 43% of online adults in the U.S. use social networking, up from 38% a year ago and just 13% in 2008. Indeed, social networking is now the third most-popular daily online activity, trailing only email (accessed by 61% of Internet users on a typical day) and search engines (59%). If there is a social networking power-user profile, it is that of a young woman. According to the Pew survey, 89% of women ages 18-29 who are online use social networking sites, and 69% use them on an average day. Since Pew began measuring social networking use in 2005, young adults have been the most likely to use these sites. But over the past year, usage among young adults online actually declined to 83% from 86%, while usage in other age groups continued to rise. In May, 70% of online adults ages 30-49 reported using social networking sites, up from 61% a year ago. It'd be interesting to know what accounted for the decline among young adults. It's also a trend worth watching. My guess is the decline indicates that social networking use among young adults has a percentile ceiling somewhere in the 80s, so a continued decline is unlikely, especially as social networking becomes more integrated into mobile devices.