Social networking sites have been very popular with young adults ages 18-29 almost since their inception. Between February 2005 and August 2006, the use of social networking sites among young adult internet users ages 18-29 jumped from 9% to 49%; during this same time period, use of these sites by 30-49 year olds remained essentially unchanged. Since then, users under age 30 have continued to be significantly more likely to use social networking sites when compared with every other adult age group. As of May 2011, over eight in ten internet users ages 18-29 use social networking sites (83%), compared with seven in ten 30-49 year-olds (70%), half of 50-64 year-olds (51%), and a third of those age 65 and older (33%).
However, while young adults have consistently been the most likely to use social networking sites, internet users in other age groups have seen faster rates of growth in recent years. In the past two years, social networking site use among internet users age 65 and older has grown 150%, from 13% in April 2009 to 33% in May 2011. Similarly, during this same time period use by 50-64 year-old internet users doubled—from 25% to 51%.
Usage patterns on a typical day reveal a slightly different picture. The frequency of social networking site usage among young adult internet users was stable over the last year – 61% of online Americans in that age cohort now use SNS on a typical day, compared with 60% one year ago. At the same time, those ages 30-49 have become somewhat more likely to use the sites on an average day; the frequency of SNS use among this age group grew a modest 18% (from 39% to 46%) over the past year. However, among the Boomer-aged segment of internet users ages 50-64, SNS usage on a typical day grew a rigorous 60% (from 20% to 32%). And unlike the general growth in SNS adoption among those ages 65 and older, the frequency of use among the oldest group of internet users did not increase significantly over the past year.