The common perception of social networking sites is that they are the exclusive realm of teens and college students. However a recent study conducted by Pew Research shows that every year, more and more adults are hopping aboard social networking sites.
According to the study, in February 2005, only 8 percent of adult Internet users claimed to use social networking sites, but that number has increased to 35 percent as of December 2008.
By age, the breakdown of adult users shows that social networks are still mostly populated by younger users. 75 percent of 18 to 24 year olds use social networking sites, with a still respectable 57 percent of 25 to 34 year olds also using sites. As expected, the percentage steadily decreases as the age increases, but 7 percent of adults 65 and older have accounts on social networking sites--something I found very impressive.
Really, this data shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Teens and college students grow up, and as they move into the adult age bracket they will keep their social networking accounts in order to stay in touch with friends. According to the study, 89 percent of adults who use social networking sites do so for the purpose of staying in touch.
What I did find surprising from the study was which social networking sites are most used by adults. There is a perception that each of the social networking sites caters to a specific demographic. Typically Myspace is considered the realm of young teens and high school students, while Facebook is for college students, and LinkedIn is meant to cater to adults. However, in reality 50 percent of adults who subscribe to social networking sites are Myspace users, with only 22 percent on Facebook, and 6 percent on LinkedIn.
As the current generation of social network users enters the workforce it will become more commonplace for adults to have accounts with social networks. Even older employees will be encouraged to jump aboard the social network bandwagon in order to keep in touch with their colleagues, and the age that uses social networking will continue to grow.