A Portrait Of Who Uses Social Networks In The US (And How Social Media Affects Our Lives)

Did you know that out of all social networking users 92% partake in Facebook, 29% participate on MySpace, 18% are on LinkedIn and Twitter is the least utilized network with just 13% usage? Or that males on LinkedIn nearly double the number of females, yet female usage of Twitter almost doubles male usage?

Today Pew Internet & American Life Project, a project of the Pew Research Center, launched a detailed report on how social networking affects our lives that contains these results and more surprising information.  The report includes a wealth of information from whether or not social media is making people less social in real life to detailed demographic data about U.S. usage of each network.

The goal of this report was to discover what social networking is actually doing to people in their personal offline lives.  These are the highlights and conclusions from the 80+ page report.

Who Uses Social Media Networking Sites?

Some of the initial information that Pew Internet presents relates to the social user and who they actually are by age, race and gender.

One of the most weighty stats about social networking usage is the fact that overall social networking usage has nearly doubled from 2008  to 2010.  Back in 2008 26% of adults were utilizing a social networking service (SNS) whereas 47% of adults were using a SNS in 2010.


Leading the increase in social networking usage were those over the age of 35, which grew nearly twice as fast as those 18-35 in the same time period.  Only 18% of Internet users over the age of 35 used a social networking service in 2008 and by 2010 that number was up to 48%.    The average age of an adult SNS user jumped from 33 years old in 2008 to 38 years old in 2010


Typical to similar studies the report backs up the fact that social networking users skew female.  A notable change showed the discrepancy actually grew from 6% more females in 2008 to 12% more female social networking users in 2010:

Site-by-Site Breakdown

One of the most interesting elements of the report is the site-by-site statistics that showed who actually uses the various social networking sites.


A few surprising stats arose from these findings, including the fact that the average MySpace user (32 years old)  is younger than both the average Facebook user (38) & Twitter (33) user.  LinkedIn skews the highest out of all the networks with users having an average age of 40.


LinkedIn is the only social network that has more men than women and the disparity is rather large with men nearly doubling the number of women.  Twitter, on the other hand is almost exactly the opposite of LinkedIn with woman making up 64% of the total users.

Race & Ethnicity

The information contained in the report shows that the vast majority of social networking users in the U.S. are white; the lack of minority participation on most networks is staggering.

African-American users have the lowest presence  on LinkedIn making up only 2% of the total users.  The highest saturation of African Americans is on MySpace with 16% of the total users.

Hispanic users are not prominent on social networking services either.  LinkedIn is comprised of only 4% Hispanics, compared to the approximate 14.5% Hispanic makeup of the national population. Hispanics do however make up 12% of both the Twitter and MySpace user base.

LinkedIn is far and away the most saturated site when it comes to white users who make up a whopping 85% of the user base.

Social Networking Usage

Much of the information that Pew Internet uncovered about social usage was expected like MySpace having users who have been members the longest, Twitter having members for the shortest time lengths, but there was some interesting data in regards to everyday usage.

The main finding in regards to usage is that Facebook is far and away the most popular social networking site.  Other sites don’t come remotely close to the popularity of Facebook.   Of all users on social networks, 92% use Facebook, 29% use MySpace, 18% use LinkedIn and just 13% use Twitter.  That’s right, people who have a social networking account are least likely to use Twitter.


While Twitter finished in last place out of the main 4 sites the frequency of use of Twitter is quite high.  Facebook again leads the pack in frequency of use with 52% of users checking at least once a day, but Twitter is close behind with 33% of  users on the service daily:

Facebook Statistics & Usage

Facebook is a focus of this report and thorough usage data and user behavior is included throughout.

Facebook users are quite active in not only using the service, but interacting with others.

  • 22% of users comment on another’s post or status
  • 26% of users “like” another user’s content
  • 15% of users update their own status
  • 20% of users comment on another user’s photos

The most active Facebook users tend to be women.  19% of women update their status at least once a day, while men are about half that number (11%) when it comes to daily status updates:

In addition to commenting and updating statuses, Facebook users do “like” quite a bit of content.

  • 44% of users in the 18-22 age range “like” content on a daily basis.
  • Men are less likely to “like” Facebook content than women.  20% of women “like” content several times a day compared to just 9% of men.

Breakdown of Friend Relationships

In addition to usage, the report sheds light on the what the most common makeup of Facebook friends might be.

  • 22% people from high school
  • 12% extended family
  • 10% coworkers
  • 9% college friends
  • 8% immediate family
  • 7% people from voluntary groups
  • 2% neighbors

Does Social Networking Hinder Real-Life Social Experiences?

The biggest question that Pew Internet wanted to answer with this report was whether or not social networking hindered off line activity and interactions.  The answer is clear, it most certainly does not.  Not only do SNS fail to retard offline growth, they actually help users develop connections and form stronger relationships in the real world.

Some of the most interesting stats that prove social networks are more than just online relationships are:

  • Only 3% of users’ Facebook friends have never met in person.  While 89% of all Facebook friends have met in person more than once.
  • Internet users have a much more diverse network than those who don’t use the internet.  Out of all social networks, LinkedIn users have the most diverse networks.
  • The average user of a social networking site has more close ties than a non-Internet user and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.
  • Internet Users are more trusting of others than non-Internet users.  Facebook users are over 3 times more likely than non-internet users to agree that “most people can be trusted.”
  • Social networking users may have more of a life than non-internet users.  There is a higher percentage of SNS users to partake in a community group, sports league or youth group than a non-internet user.

Other Interesting Learnings

  • Private messages are not frequently used.  Only 38% of users claim to use Facebook’s private messages at once a week or more.
  • MySpace users have a greater probability to take multiple viewpoints than any other social networking site.
  • Internet users are more likely to know their neighbors’ names than non-internet users
  • LinkedIn is the only platform that skews male.  Nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn. All other SNS platforms have significantly more female users than male users.

Stunning Interactive Visualization of Migrant New Yorkers

via MapYourMoves


Map your moves – A visual exploration of where New Yorkers moved in the last decade


This map distills more than 4000 moves from over 1700 people, collected in an informal survey by WNYC, a New York based public radio station.

For generating the geo–coordinates from the entered ZIP codes, I used the free bulk geocoder at gpsvisualizer.com. I did not check every single data row in detail, so a few of the moves might be misrepresented.


As most moves occurred from, to or within the New York area, this area displayed enlarged in the white circle at the center of the graphic. The rest of the world is mapped with a damped distance function, in order to fit everything into one screen without losing too to white-space.


Visual markers

Each circle corresponds to one zip code area. Its size indicates the number of moves to or from the area. legend colors Actually, it is consists of two overlaid circles: a red one for people moving out of the area, and a blue one for people moving to the area. So, a small purple circle with a thick blue outline indicates a place where people tend to move and stay, whereas a red outline indicates a less attractive place.


Click one of the circles to inspect only moves to or from this area. Or, to inspect a whole cluster of areas, drag to create a radial selection bubble. To clear your selection, click on the background. Moves to a selected place are indicated with a blue line, wheres moves from a selected place are drawn in red.



On the right, you can find some statistics on why and when people moved to the selected areas. legend bars You can directly compare the lengths of the red (for people moving away from the selected areas) and blue (for people moving to the selected areas) bars to spot trends and peculiarities. Moreover, you can compare these values to the baseline (overlaid in grey), which indicates the relative proportion when we consider at all moves. If, for instance, the blue bar for "landlord issues" is smaller than the red bar, this means that the selected area has a relatively low fraction of people moving away because of landlord issues.

The Demographic Landscape of Social Networks

I’d like to share a brief demographic analysis of social networks that helps explain who uses social networks, and for what purpose.

Before diving in, I think its best to discuss where our data comes from. Amzini is a directory of over 900 social websites that are visited over 7 billion times per month, by over 900 million visitors (Compete.com). We collect demographic information on each website from Alexa.com, who uses their toolbar to provide estimations of the audience's composition for each site. On an individual site level, these statistics often must be taken with a grain of salt due to small sample sizes and Alexa's bias towards the technologically saavy crowd. However, since our statistics are deduced from 900 websites that average 9 million visits/month per site, our demographic figures provide a unique and informative new look into the social networking industry.

The demographic averages for our entire data set tell a familiar story; social networking is dominated by younger generations with no children, and online networking activity picks up in college. Now that I told you what you already know, let’s look at a categorical breakdown and heat-map featuring demographic data separated into Amzini's 11 main categories.

Demographic Heatmap of Social Networks


Use of Social Networks by Age and Category

As a whole, we see exactly what we expected... social networks are most popular among the youngest generation (18-34) and are used less frequently for each successive age group over 35. This trend is often attributed to an increased likeness for technology among youth. However, the heat map to the right highlights the important role generational differences in interests plays in creating such a young social networking demographic.

Youth ages 18-24 tend to use social networks to supplement social life, learning, and having fun. These happen to be the three strongest suits of social networking. The categories that are most popular among this age group are Friends/Dating (social life), info-sharing/education (learning), and creative arts/gaming (having fun). Combined, these 6 categories make up about 91% of the total visits per month among sites on Amzini!

The most diverse use of social networks comes from the 25-34 year old age group. This demographic tends to continue to use the services they used in college, but less often. However, as they start to have new interests (business, family), the data suggests this is the age group most likely to use online social engagement to benefit their business/career, discuss or plan travels, and share family-related experiences online.

For the demographic above 35, there is clearly some technological bias against social networking. However, the reasonably high likeliness of these age groups to use business, family, and dating networks suggests that social networking's popularity among youth may be not just be due to technological differences, but to a better fit of interests.


Social options are becoming available for more and more new interests... Do you think these networks are entering in response to a more diverse market? Or do you think the market is diversifying due to innovations that make social engagement valuable for a more diverse set of needs?


Use of Social Networks by Education Experience

The participation rate for social networks across the board tends to be higher for people with college-level education. In college, your network expands beyond your hometown and there is a tremendous amount of information shared between students. As mentioned before, social networking is a great fit for these needs, so the high use among people with college education is not surprising.

Two categories break this trend. The first, Gaming, has an unusually high participation rate among people without college experience. With an extraordinarily young following, it is likely that a high percentage of gamers are simply too young to have college experience.

The second trend-breaker, Places, has a very high participation rate among people with graduate-level schooling. This statistic can likely be attributed to the positive correlation between graduate school and income, and between income and travel.


Does it surprise you that Gaming is the only category where social networks are used more often than other sites among people with no college experience?

Gender and Children

Use of Social Networks by Gender and Children

A social network's gender is probably the demographic most strongly influenced by the community's niche. Many categories present data in line with stereotypes... Gaming is strongly dominated by males, lifestyle and family by females. There are, however, some surprises here. Dating, Places, and Business actually are used more often by females while education networks are used most by males. Are these as you expected?

The dominance of a population without children is likely strongly influenced by the correlation between age and having children. It is also likely that older generations have a decreased need to meet new people as they settle down and have kids. The obvious exception to this trend is the 'Family' category, for which having kids is often the primary reason for participation in the first place.

Browsing Location

Use of Social Networks by Browsing Location

The heat-map of browsing location reveals strong use of social networks in the workplace. This raises an interesting debate. On one hand, strong engagement with social networks at work may suggest social networking is becoming a distraction in the workplace. On the other hand, this engagement may be representative of the increasing application of social websites for practical purposes (beyond socializing with friends).

Social networking is becoming a growing asset to businesses as both a marketing and a communication tool. While extremely strong numbers for the Business and Places categories likely reflect this use, you have to wonder if lifestyle, friends, and interest networks are being used in a social context rather than just for marketing purposes.


What do you think about the use of social internet at work? Do these numbers reflect a growing importance of online communities for businesses? Or are social networks becoming a distraction for workers?

We've given some brief interpretations of this interesting data set, but there are many interesting topics of discussion that we have not covered. What story stands out to you?

Project Cascade: Tracking Content From Inception Thru Dissemination

Cascade allows for precise analysis of the structures which underly sharing activity on the web.

This first-of-its-kind tool links browsing behavior on a site to sharing activity to construct a detailed picture of how information propagates through the social media space. While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.

via nytlabs.com

This is absolutely fascinating, and shines a little light on the social loopholes in the NYTimes paywall.

On Art & Science in Web Cartography

Question: Have the roles that art and science play in the creation of cartographic products shifted in recent years and over new media types?

In many ways, this is a silly debate that is predicated on a number of problematically subjective concepts. First among these concepts is a set of perceived definitions of broad terms. “Art”, for example, is a vague word, referring to anything from evil magic (Dark Arts) and military strategy (The Art of War) to food preparation (Culinary Arts) and walking while playing a saxophone (Marching Arts). “Science” is similarly difficult to pin down, and indeed can be taken to mean the same thing as “Art”. (OED definition I1 for Art: “Skill in doing something, esp. as the result of knowledge or practice.” OED definition 2b for Science: “Trained Skill.”) When considering pursuits in “computer science” and “web cartography” with respect to “art” and “science,” the definitions blur even more. After all, web cartography cannot exist without the science behind the web, right? And what on earth does “web cartography” really mean?

To clear up my opinions on this debate, I offer the following (admittedly idiosyncratic) definitions, each defined solely in the context of the field of cartography.

Art. The human element of cartographic production. Art enables the creation of maps with a personal, emotional, unique and (to varying degrees) unpredictable lens on the world. The implementation of art in cartographic production results directly in the subjective aesthetic appeal of the resulting image—and, by extension, the viewer’s impressions of the space it depicts. While artistic application in cartographic production may rely on some level of repetition or iteration, it does not blindly rely on templates or presets. “Artistic” maps may be influenced by “fine art” (which is increasingly conflated with and/or compressed into the technology-driven field of 20th century graphic design). Examples of maps that are likely to be influenced by art include one-off manuscript maps, cognitive and mental maps, psychogeographical maps, maps of emotional landscapes, &c.

Science. The mechanical element in cartographic production. Science enables the mass production of maps in all non-handmade media. Science in cartography refers to the technology behind the pen a cartographer uses, as well as his software, hardware and all of the formulas and algorithms that reside therein. Science drives the modern notion of “push-button cartography”. Humans cannot draw or walk in a straight line; the science in cartography “fixes” this (through simplification and generalization algorithms) and gives us the impression that we can and have walked routes straight as a (carbon-fiber) arrow. Examples of maps with high potential to be influenced by science include classed choropleth maps, maps based on remotely sensed data, maps of algorithmically interpolated data, &c.

Web Cartography. Any spatial representation existing on—and intended in some way for—the Web. The largest subset of maps which this definition excludes can be found in digital archives of analog maps, as they were not originally intended for the Web. Web cartography runs the gamut from custom and canned locator maps (and bizarre combinations thereof) to mapping platforms offered up by multi-billion dollar corporations and federal agency geoportals. While the concept of web cartography is often accompanied by images of animated and interactive maps, these are but a subset of all maps served up in this medium.

Spark. This debate (at least recently and insularly) was sparked by my somewhat pessimistic view of art and science as they relate to web cartography. I illustrated this view in a series of deliberately cryptic paper-bag style Venn diagrams, which I posted yesterday. My intention when creating these images was to offer a visual editorial on the way science (or, really, digital technology) has boxed out the ability for would-be cartographers to be truly artistic in the process of map-making for the web. The first diagram showed “hacks” overlapping with “science” and left “art” next to (but not overlapping) either; thus implying that “art” is still in the room, but slightly out of reach. To give this diagram a bit of context, I created another, where I showed the location of manuscript, print and web cartography on sets of two overlapping spheres of “art” and “science”. In this series, manuscript cartography resides near the center of “art” and on the edge of “science”; print cartography includes equal parts of “art” and “science”; and web cartography resides near the heart of “science” and on the edge of “art”. To clarify this standpoint for Venn-diagram-purists, I created a third version, where a circle of “cartography” is added to the mix.

After creating these diagrams and sorting through some much-appreciated feedback, I created yet another Venn diagram (above). In this version, it is not the influence of art or science on cartography that is changing; it is the natures of art, science and cartography that change from medium to medium. I have also removed the thick lines that bounded these three concepts, hinting at the lack of concrete definitions for each.

Before you dismiss this as a cop-out, consider the following: this entire debate is predicated on the assumption that cartography (in some form and at some time) was located at the intersection of art and science. But no matter what form or in what era, this assertion is problematic because there may be no such singular place. If it does exist, what does this intersection of art and science look like? Is it a fork in the road? Is there a blinking yellow light (White 2011)? To base a debate on a place and space that may or may not exist, and that is somewhat difficult to imagine (at least for me), makes the entire debate–if you’ll pardon the euphemism—pointlessly academic.

Opinion. I suggest that if we can agree that cartography existed at an intersection of art and science at some point, it may well still be “there” (or at least in the neighborhood). What has changed are the ways in which art and science are being employed in the creation of cartographic products. Therein lies the source of my frustration. As I mentioned in a reply to Daniel Huffman’s comments on the original Venn diagrams, it is clear that “artistic decisions” can be made quite easily while creating a map for the Web. (How much should I generalize this line? What colors should I use for this polygon? What typeface should I use for these water features?) But in other forms of cartography, the actions that follow these decisions are also artistic—hand v. algorithmic generalization, personal v. “brewed” color choices, hand-lettering v. selecting a preset font. In web cartography, the process is often complete when the initial decision is made.

Not to put too fine a point on it, in closing, I offer a final comparison. Imagine for a moment the analog art of painting a line. The paint colors are determined by the ingredients the artist mixed, the width of the line is relative to the artist’s brush and the amount of pressure exerted upon it, and the route the line takes is an artistic representation of a cognized concept of “line” (which, as mentioned above, will certainly not be perfectly straight). In the digital version of this scenario, the process of drawing a line has been distilled to a set of decisions based on software presets (digital brush, stroke weight, color, transparency, &c.), all accomplished with the click of a mouse. The choices made within these presets can certainly be “artistic”, but we have to admit that some of the “art” that was fundamental in the first scenario is unattainable in the second.

If the science behind the software we use makes these artistic choices possible, is the implementation of the choices more science than art? This is a difficult question to answer, and in the end, it may not be worth answering. Because ultimately, I believe that the intersections (as well as extent and influence) between of art, science and cartography are constantly changing. Perhaps the GeoWeb and new design tools will allow web cartography to move forward in increasingly artistic and personal ways. Or perhaps, we can bring more art back into the mix by refuting black-box, whizzbang tools and returning to manual techniques. Either way, I am not claiming that the art in cartography is “dead” (I’m not that inflammatory, nor do I believe it to be true). I am simply voicing my frustration with the amount of science masquerading as art in cartography.

Call. There it is, my opinion on the state of art in web cartography. And it is only that: an opinion. So, I call on anyone who happens to read this who has an opinion on the matter to write a response. If you have a blog, post it up. Or feel free to submit a comment to this post. Either way, I would love to hear from everyone who has thoughts on this. Heck, make your own Venn diagram or some other visualization.