The Pew Research Center released a study today on “Social networking sites and our lives”—85 pages of research, stats and analysis on how Facebook has affected our relationships and has changed the way we communicate. Chock-full of insights, no doubt, but in taking a closer look, how surprised should we really be with the data?
Let’s take a look at a few of the key findings:
The average age of social network users has shifted, trending older.
In 2008, according to the study, only 26 percent of adults reported using social networking sites. At that time, the average user was 33 years old. In 2010, however, 47 percent of adults reportedly use social networking sites, and 38 is the new average age.
Looking back to 2008, Facebook was still primarily a network for Gen Y, and business use cases of it were just starting to pop up. In the past two or three years, Facebook implemented fan pages and company pages, giving brands—and thus employees and consumers—more reason to join the site. Business presence on Facebook has now exploded, and many analysts tout these pages as must-haves.
Facebook was still relatively young in 2008 and on the brink of truly going mainstream. Gen Y was already very active on and familiar with the platform, while many Gen Xers and Boomers were still wary. Now that adult usage has almost doubled in the last two to three years, it makes sense that Facebook’s user base is trending older.
[Want more tips, tricks and analysis on Facebook? Check out CIO.com’s Facebook Bible.]
Facebook users are more trusting than others.
Facebook members who use the site multiple times per day are 43 percent more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted, according to the report.
Facebook provides transparency to previously private events. Now, you likely know when your Facebook friends are having good or bad days. Or when your neighbors experience things like promotions, or—yes—the mundane like successful dinners.
In offering up that view into people’s private lives, of course Facebook users will be more trusting of people because they’re armed with information and perspectives that they otherwise never would have had.
Facebook users get more social support than other people.
When you have such a concentrated network tuned in to your ups and downs and daily goings on, you’re likely to receive more support than you would otherwise.
According to the report, a Facebook user who visits the site multiple times a day tends to score 80/100 in total support, emotional support and 81/100 in companionship—that’s about twice as much support as the average American receives as a result of being married or cohabitating with a partner. The more people who have access to you and information about you, the more they’ll care.
A few other findings the study touts: “Facebook users have more close relationships,” “Facebook users are more politically engaged than most people” and “Facebook revives dormant relationships.” Well, of course it does.
The list could go on, but the point here is that Facebook makes people—yes, you guessed it—more social. More aware of what’s happening around them, and more caring of those around them. Facebook users develop this vested interest in their group of Facebook friends, whether they want to or not, because of the exposure and access they have to them.
And when you think about it—Facebook users being more social, trusting and supportive—it’s not that surprising.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com