By Madison Graver

How integral is social media in our society?

No one can go anywhere nowadays without seeing someone using his or her phone. With those phones comes games, widgets, and the prolific social media. What began as just a small phenomenon with MySpace has grown into a worldwide obsession. Although some were slow to catch on, the majority of the world is utilizing social media in one way or another. A recent article by the New York Times states that social media, specifically Facebook, could be associated with a longer life. The study was based on 12 million social media profiles and found that “moderate use” of Facebook was associated with the lowest mortality rate, and that receiving friend requests correlated with reduced mortality.

It appears that the last 16 years have brought social media into the spotlight. Research and data can show that as time progresses, the demographics and quantity of users on social media is increasing.

Data collected by Edison Research and Triton Digital shows a progressive graph of the number of people using social media from 2008-2016. The numbers have increased by over 50% in the last eight years. We can see a gradual increase through the years, possibly due to the increased knowledge of it’s presence. In 2008, Facebook and Twitter were just starting to get on their feet in terms of amount of users. Ever since then a multitude of sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest have gained a following that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

U.S. Population with a Social Network Profile 2008-2016 

This data from Edison Research and Triton Digital shows the share of the U.S. population with a social media profile from 2008-2016. Data was taken from people ages 12 and up.

One of the most interesting, yet obvious, parts of social media demographics is the age gap. Many people are familiar with the assumption that young people have a better grasp on the internet and technology than the older generations. And this study done by the Pew Research Center backs up that assumption. Back in 2000, 72% of people 18-29 were utilizing social media. This seems like a relatively high number, especially when you put that in comparison to the 14% of people 65+ that were on social media in 2000. But looking farther down, we see that each age range gradually rose to where there were almost 60% of people 65+ that were using social media in 2015. This goes to show that as time progresses, each generation is continuing to gain more knowledge on every aspect of social media.

Social Media Use by Age 2000-2015

This data comes from the Pew Research Center, showing four different age categories and what percentage of each was using social media each year. The study was conducted from March 2000 until May 2015.

This age difference gap in social media can also be linked to our own community. Lili Graver, Isabel Gisser, Rachel Graver and Chuck Graver all have said that they use social media in some capacity. Lili Graver, age 16 and Isabel Gisser, age 15 both said that they began using social media in or around 2012. As for Rachel Graver, age 53 she began with Facebook in 2008. Looking back at the Pew Research data, 2008 and 2009 served as times where the numbers increased a few percentage points which correlates with when Graver started using social media. Chuck Graver, age 84 says that he created  his first social media account in September 2016 meaning that he is included in the group of people 65+ that have taken their time adapting to social media. But whether someone is a fresh face to the social media world or a longtime veteran, all that matters is that it’s allowing new connections in the world.

Global Users on Social Networks as of September 2016 

This data was conducted by We Are Social and shows how many active users the top social media sites had as of September 2016.

As of September 2016, Facebook is the most widely used social media site on the internet. Data from We Are Social shows that the top four sites are Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. The sites WhatsApp and WeChat seem to come out of the blue, considering they were created in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Meaning that in about 5-6 years those sites have gained at or close to a billion users. Something to note is the fact that the second, third and fourth apps with the most users all are based around messaging. The sole purpose of those apps is to have a resource other than iMessage to communicate with friends and family. Snapchat and Pinterest, both very popular with younger generations, are closer to the bottom in this poll. Graver and Gisser both reported that their favorite app to use is SnapChat. They still have a large number of users but it’s surprisingly lower than expected. In the last 2-3 years Snapchat has become a phenomenon among young people, but it didn’t get it’s big break until around 2013 giving much less time to rack up users.  It seems the older generations began using Facebook much before things like Instagram and Snapchat came around, resulting in such a drastically different amount of users.

With how prevalent social media has become, it’s no surprise how often people are utilizing it. An article from WTWH Marketing Lab explains a study done by Harvard University showing how social media can be so addictive for some people. The study was based on the central question of ‘why are people compelled to share everything about themselves and their lives?’ Through a series of experiments, researchers learned that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same part of the brain that is associated with the sensation of pleasure. This study makes it clear that our brain considers self-disclosure to be a rewarding experience. Lead researcher of the study Diana Tamir says she “think[s] the study helps to explain why people utilize social media websites so often. [She] think[s] it helps explain why Twitter exists and why Facebook is so popular, because people enjoy sharing information about themselves.”

Possibly the only thing more addicting than social media is online shopping. Ever since social media took the world by storm, companies have started advertising and promoting on various social media sites. In 2013, 75% of social generated e-commerce sales came from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Companies know that the majority of their consumers use social media, so they take the opportunity to further their business by promoting on it. In some cases, social media is what causes people to make online purchases. According to this video, 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide their purchases and 4 in 10 social media users have purchased an item in-store or online after sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. In the age of the internet that we are currently in, it’s no surprise that so many people are willing to make purchases based on online ads rather than making purchases in a store. It truly shows that an evolution has occurred in our society.

Past generations probably would never have predicted the current phenomena that is social media. Only time will tell if it can keep it’s powerful presence in our world’s current culture. Along with whether or not Facebook truly does help prolong lives. Social media has completely changed how people communicate. Instead of commercials and ads in paper, people are utilizing videos and eye catching tweets. Based on the continued climb in number of social media users, it doesn’t look like this internet lifestyle is going away anytime soon.