The Latest Pew Research Study of Social Media Usage– What the Pundits Aren’t Talking About

Cross posted from my guest blog at Vtricity

All weekend different bloggers have been buzzing about recently published results from Pew Research about social media usage in the US.  Mostly this is to support their own views such as Pinterist is the next cool thing or dumping Facebook is the new hip thing to do.

What I’m really surprised about is that nobody pointed out these observations:

SNS on mobile phones_2012
[SOURCE:  © Pew Internet & American Life Project, used with permission]

40% of American mobile phones owners use social network on their phone, note that this includes half of users aged 30 to 49, and more than 2/3 of users aged 18 to 29.


[SOURCE:  © Pew Internet & American Life Project, used with permission]

This percentage closely matches smartphone ownership, which measure at 46% of all US adults and more than half of total mobile phone ownership, according to a different survey also from Pew. Since owning a smartphone is the prerequisite technology to really use social media on a mobile device, clearly the vast majority of smartphone owners engage in social media on their devices.

SNS_age_over time_late 2012

[SOURCE:  © Pew Internet & American Life Project, used with permission]

Despite an increasing “eligible” population of smart mobile phone users, note that overall usage of social media has dropped from a peak of 69% of all Internet users, and that this drop is mirrored in all age groups except those aged 30 to 49.

This makes me ask the following questions:

  • Does this suggest that social media, in general, is simply a waning fad?
  • Are the services’ attempts at monetizing deteriorating their user experience enough that we are simply turning them off?
  • Is this just the echo of hipsters jumping off since the mainstream has caught up?
  • Are we seeing the statistical impact of moral boycotting of those decrying social media services bait and switch privacy policies?

If you are reading this blog, it suggests that you, like me, are part of those left behind in social media land. What do you make of this data?


  1. Schalk Viljoen says:

    It is interesting that the one demographic which has increased social media site usage is 30-49 … maybe all those execs who are FINALLY getting hip with social? while the rest of the world is migrating from ‘OMG isn’t this AWESOME’ to seeing social as just another communication tool.

    • Hi Schalk,
      Yes, I’m curious as well how much of the decline is simply fatigue versus a major revolt, or a growing defection to another medium.

      Thanks for the comment :)


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