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Senior Citizens and Internet

Senior Citizens Not Flocking to Social Network Websites: Just 7% Have Posted Profiles

Most adults use online social networks primarily to connect with friends

Jan. 22, 2009 – Just 7 out of every 100 senior citizens – Americans age 65 or older – have a profile on an online social network - well below the 35 percent of all adult internet users. The percentage of social networking adults was only 8% in 2005, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's December 2008 tracking survey.

While media coverage and policy attention focus heavily on how children and young adults use social network sites, adults still make up the bulk of the users of these websites. Adults make up a larger portion of the US population than teens, which is why the 35% number represents a larger number of users than the 65% of online teens who also use online social networks.

Still, younger online adults are much more likely than their older counterparts to use social networks, with 75% of adults 18-24 using these networks, compared to just 7% of adults 65 and older. At its core, use of online social networks is still a phenomenon of the young.

Overall, personal use of social networks seems to be more prevalent than professional use of networks, both in the orientation of the networks that adults choose to use as well as the reasons they give for using the applications. Most adults, like teens, are using online social networks to connect with people they already know.

When users do use social networks for professional and personal reasons, they will often maintain multiple profiles, generally on different sites.

Most, but not all adult social network users are privacy conscious; 60% of adult social network users restrict access to their profiles so that only their friends can see it, and 58% of adult social network users restrict access to certain content within their profile.

For respondents who have multiple profiles, we asked them to name the site with the profile they visit most frequently.

Half of social network users have profiles on MySpace.

Among adults, MySpace is the most popular online social network.6 Half (50%) of adult social network users age 18 and older are on MySpace, while 22% of adult social network users have an account on Facebook. Another 6% have an account on LinkedIn, 2% have an account on Yahoo, and 1% each have accounts on YouTube and Classmates.com. Another aggregate 10% of adult online social network users have profiles on other sites, including BlackPlanet, Orkut, Hi5 and Match.com.

There is some variation in the types of people who tend to use each of the top three social networks. Typically, MySpace users are more likely to be women, Hispanic or black, to have a high school education or some experience with college. The median age of a MySpace user is 27 years old.

Facebook users are more likely to be men and to have a college degree. The median age of a Facebook user is 26 years old.

LinkedIn users are more likely to be men, to be white and to have a college degree. The median age of a LinkedIn user is 40 years old.

 

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Personal use of social networks is more prevalent than professional use.

Overall, adults tend to use social networks for personal reasons more than professional ones. This is true of both the networks that adults choose to use, as well as the reasons they give for using these applications. As noted above, 6% use LinkedIn, an online social network dedicated to professional networking, while 72% use other social networks (MySpace and Facebook) that are used for both professional and personal networking purposes.

In addition, most adults use online social networks primarily to connect with friends. Nearly nine in ten social network users (89%) say they use the networks to stay in touch with friends, and 57% say they use it to make plans with friends. As with teens, the bulk of these friend connections are with people they already know; under half (49%) use the sites to make new friends. Professional uses are less prevalent; less than a third of social network users are using them for professional purposes, regardless of which site they use.

>> Original report by Amanda Lenhart

>> View PDF of Full Report

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