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The rise of the social silver surfers

business Updated: Aug 06, 2013 17:22 IST
Pew Internet

Nearly two-thirds of 50-64 year olds and 43 % of those aged 65+ are now on Facebook -- which explains why your great aunt is poking you and potentially why the younger generation is decamping to Twitter.

The Pew Internet study, published this week, shows that in the US, social networks have never been more popular. Back in 2005, 8 % of online US adults -- i.e. anyone aged 18+ with an internet connection -- claimed to use social networking sites while today that figure stands at a huge 72 %.

Back in 2005 only Facebook and Myspace were flying the flag for social media but over recent years they have been joined by everything from Path and Pinterest to Google+ and of course, Twitter. Pew only started collecting data on the microblogging site back in November 2010 when just 8 % of respondents were users, but now membership has more or less doubled to 18 % in two-and-a-half years (Pew's figures are as of May 2013).

And while on the whole, social networks are still a young person's and a woman's game -- 89 % of 18-to-29-year-olds are members of sites like Facebook and 74 % of all female internet adults are social media users -- the older generation is catching up, quickly. Use by 50-to-64-year-olds has seen a ten-fold increase since February 2005, going from 6 % to 60 %, while the over 65s, who didn't come to social media until August 2006 (1 percent) are also moving into the social media age.

At 43 % nearly half of all parents and grandparents are potentially online trying to ‘Friend' their extended family and misusing terms like LOL, believing it to mean 'lots of love' rather than 'laugh out loud.'

This could well explain why Twitter use among 18-to-29-year-olds spiked in 2012 and currently stands at 30 % of the demographic, making them the service's biggest users. Only 17 % of 30-to-49-year-olds, 13 % of 50-to-64-year-olds and 5 % of those aged 65+ are members, and the uptake in these groups has been very slow and steady over the past two-and-a-half years.

There is of course also the role of mobile. Though Pew's figures for its 2,252-strong sample group don't include statistics on smartphone ownership, Twitter has fast become a primarily mobile service and is therefore going to have a greater hold over those with mobile, internet-connected devices -- i.e., younger consumers.

Interestingly, though social media in general appears more popular with women, Twitter is a bigger hit with men -- but only just -- with 18 % of all male online adults claiming to use the service compared with 17 % of all internet-using women. In an earlier Pew study about social media the figures showed that among all of the top social media destinations, Twitter was the only site that had more male than female users and this is continuing to hold true.