50% of U.S. residents who have a profile on a social networking site are worried about their privacy. This includes 27% who are concerned and 23% who are very concerned. The remaining 50% aren’t too anxious. 29% are not very concerned, and 21% are not concerned at all.
The oldest Americans are the most worried. 65% of those 60 and older have some degree of concern about their privacy on a social networking site.
Women with a social networking profile are more concerned about their privacy than men. A majority of women — 57% — have some level of anxiety about the issue compared with 43% of men.
So, just how many Americans are connecting via social networking websites? 43% say they have a profile on a site like Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn. 57%, however, do not. There has been little change on this question, overall, since Marist last asked it in December. At that time 41% of U.S. residents said they stay in touch via social networking websites while 59% did not.
Currently, 40% of men have a profile on a social networking site. That proportion stood at 36% in December. Women, however, continue to outnumber men in this regard. 45% use these tools to keep in touch with family and friends. This proportion has not changed since December.
Social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn have yet to convince the majority of U.S. residents to sign up, but if a recent national Marist Poll on the topic is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before they do.
The survey found that 41% of U.S. residents have a profile on a social networking site, a 9 percentage point jump since Marist last asked about social networking in June.
Notably, the social networking generation gap may be shrinking. Although those under age 45 still outnumber the proportion of older Americans who stay connected online, more Americans age 45 and older have discovered the interactive joys of trading witticisms, sharing photos, and swapping links. 23% of people in that age group now report having an account compared with 14% when Marist last asked this question in June.
Growth continues for people under 45, as well. 65% of residents under 45 years old say they have a social networking profile while 59% said the same in the last poll.
Americans who are employed are also more likely to appreciate the advantages social networking affords. Nearly half — 48% — of people with a job have a profile compared with only three in ten adults who are not working.
When it comes to having a social networking profile, women are more likely to connect with family, friends, and colleagues online. 45% of women report they have profiles, and 36% of men say the same.
Relationships and Social Networking
The substantial increase may be explained by the general perception that social networks are a good way to strengthen connections to friends and family. 68% of U.S. residents with profiles say the sites help their personal relationships while 12% say they hurt them. 20% are unsure.
Age is also a factor on this question. More younger Americans with a social networking profile think using this form of communication helps relationships compared with those who are older. 71% of those under age 45 think this is the case compared with 63% who are 45 and older.
Have you ever fallen into a tech-hole?
You’re sitting at your computer, logged into your Facebook, Twitter and other social networking accounts, immersed in the links, videos, comments and other digital flotsam shooting down the info streams. Meanwhile, a person, real flesh and blood, walks in the room and wants your attention. You don’t hear his words; you mindlessly wave him away. You’re busy … with your virtual friends.
Perhaps that’s never happened to you. As for me, I’ve spent a serious number of hours in the tech-hole. Based on a recent Marist poll, the number of Web users with social networking accounts, and perhaps susceptible to this experience, is growing rapidly. This furious growth has led some to question whether the effects of spending so much time on Facebook, Twitter and their ilk could be harmful.
In the U.K., neuroscientist Susan Greenfield took her concerns about social networks to the House of Lords, suggesting that the use of the sites could affect the human brain — especially a child’s brain — in profound ways. One of her more frightening points was that using the sites could yield a generation of grown-ups with the emotional depth and cognitive abilities of big babies. The social networks provide experiences that are “devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance,” said Greenfield. ”As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity.” Among other things, she called for an investigation into whether the overuse of screen technologies could be linked to a recent spike in diagnoses of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. People who spend formative years surfing the Internet, an environment characterized by “fast action and reaction,” could come to expect similar instant gratification in the non-virtual world, said Greenfield.
Her concerns have probably resonated with Web skeptics because she’s homed in on recognizably annoying online behavior. For example, if you’ve ever been irritated when a friend updates his or her status message to broadcast a favorite kind of toothpaste – e.g., “[Person X] is contemplating the different colors of AquaFresh” — Greenfield sympathizes. “Now what does this say about how you see yourself?” she asks of those prone to posting personal trivia. “Does this say anything about how secure you feel about yourself? Is it not marginally reminiscent of a small child saying ‘Look at me, look at me mummy! Now I’ve put my sock on. Now I’ve got my other sock on.’”
Not everyone is receptive to Greenfield’s concerns. Ben Goldacre, a British writer, broadcaster and doctor, and author of a Guardian column called Bad Science, says Greenfield is irresponsibly using her position as head of the Royal Institution of Great Britain — a body devoted to improving the public’s knowledge of science — because she doesn’t have any empirical evidence backing up her fears. If Greenfield wants to promote awareness of the scientific method, says Goldacre, she shouldn’t be spending so much time airing her qualms about untested hypotheses. Greenfield’s caveats that her purpose is to raise questions, not give answers, aren’t enough for Goldacre; he says she’s recklessly generating scary headlines that frighten a Web-loving populace. “It makes me quite sad,” he writes, “when the public’s understanding of science is in such a terrible state, that this is one of our most prominent and well funded champions.” In a heated BBC debate on the social networking controversy, you can see Goldacre square off against Dr. Aric Sigman, who says we should be wary about the time we spend in front of screens subtracting from the time we spend talking to people.
Despite the squabbling, it’s probably safe to say that thinkers on both sides of the issue would agree that more research is needed. To that end, various studies and polls have been published on the social networks in particular and increased Web use in general. For example, the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future reported that households connected to the Internet were experiencing less “face-to-face family time, increased feelings of being ignored by family members using the Web, and growing concerns that children are spending too much time online.” On the other hand, a poll conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that use of cell phones and the Internet has not, generally speaking, contributed to social isolation (I urge you to view their conclusions for a much more precise explanation).
In the meantime, the tech-hole always beckons, so much so that Web addiction treatment centers have emerged to help people who can’t prioritize the real world over the virtual one. While weighing in on the controversy, Maggie Jackson, the author of “Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age,” offers this advice to Web users: “Going forward, we need to rediscover the value of digital gadgets as tools, rather than elevating them to social and cognitive panacea. Lady Greenfield is right: we need to grow up and take a more mature approach to our tech tools.” In other words, technology exists to support our relations with other human beings, not replace them.
In theory, it’s easy to remember that. In practice, we might find ourselves sacrificing hours to the digital ether, convincing ourselves that we’re connected to everyone, but in reality being connected to no one.
In a poll that suggests the vast repercussions of the economic crisis, 77% of New York State registered voters say they personally know someone who has lost their job in the last 6 months.
More voters in New York City and in the suburbs say they know someone who has lost his/her job during that timeframe. 82% of city voters and 79% of those in the suburbs report this to be the case. This compares with 74% Upstate.
Slight differences are also apparent among income groups. 82% of people with an income of $100,000 or more say they know someone who’s joined the ranks of the unemployed in the last half-year, while 77% of those making between $50,000 and $99,999 and 74% of those making less than $50,000 say the same.
Table: Personally Know Someone Who Lost a Job
Social Networking and Job Loss…Potential Pitfall?
Social networking may be getting a lot of hype, but it hasn’t yet seduced a majority of New York voters. Only 31% say they personally have a profile on a social networking website such as MySpace or Facebook.
Those who do have a profile divide over whether it’s wise for someone to use a social networking site to tell everyone they have lost their job. 49% say they’re more likely to describe someone who does so as “smart,” but 41% say they’re more likely to call that person, “desperate.” 10% are unsure.
Educational background affects one’s stance on this issue. 55% of college graduates say “smart” compared with 41% of those who aren’t college graduates.
Overall, who is more likely to utilize social networking sites? Voters with higher incomes are more likely to join these online networks. 42% of those making $100,000 or more have a profile, compared with 32% of those with incomes between $50,000 and $99,999 and only 27% of those making less than $50,000.
Not surprisingly, younger voters are more likely to jump on the social networking bandwagon. 54% of those under 45 have a profile, while only 19% of those over 45 have one. On the question of whether they’d call a person who announces their unemployment as “smart” or “desperate,” those under 45 divide while a majority of those 45 and older consider it to be a smart move.
And, social networking has taken the 18-to-29 age group by storm: a whopping 74% of those Web users have a profile on MySpace, Facebook and their ilk.
The buzz over Twitter may have reached a fever pitch, but the social networking service hasn’t yet conquered the American populace. According to a new Marist Poll, only 6% of U.S. residents have personal Twitter accounts.
However, age, education and income do influence one’s tendency to “tweet.” Thirty and early forty-somethings are slightly more likely than any other age group to use Twitter. 10% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 44 belong to the service. This compares with 7% of 45 to 59 year olds, 6% of 18 to 29 year olds, and just 3% of those 60 and older. Turning to education 12% of college graduates have joined the ranks of Twitter users while 3% of those without college degrees have done the same. And, on the income front, 10% of Americans earning $50,000 or more annually say they have a personal Twitter account while just 3% of those making less report the same.
Even if you don’t use Twitter, you’ve probably been inundated with news about the social networking site. That’s because the sharp minds behind Twitter managed to create a perfect media storm. Not only does their product have an insanely catchy name — isn’t it fun to say “Twitter” and “tweet”? — but it also provides mainstream media outlets with another way to reach an audience whose technology I.Q. is growing every day (Pebbles and Pundits also has a Twitter account). As a result, talking heads have been giving Twitter endless free publicity, promoting their own Twitter accounts and cracking each other up with Twitter-related banter (in a much-publicized gaffe on “The Today Show,” Stephen Colbert rendered Meredith Vieira speechless when he attempted to coin the past-tense variation of “tweet”).
Personally, I was skeptical when I first heard about Twitter. After the ascent of Facebook, MySpace, and many other social networking sites, why did the world need another one? What’s more, Twitter only allows messages of up to 140 characters in length. How much significance could be conveyed in a sentence or two? Twitter struck me as another nail in the coffin of the average American’s attention span.
A recent Marist poll suggests that, despite all the publicity, many people may share my skepticism — only 6% of Americans have personal Twitter accounts. Moreover, a study by Nielsen found that a majority of Twitter users stop tweeting a month after signing up. Is it possible that Twitter is a passing fad?
That’s doubtful. The aforementioned Nielsen study caused such a fervor among Twitter users that an addendum was posted acknowledging their complaints (though not retracting the original findings). Comscore, a company that measures consumers’ surfing habits, awarded Twitter the fastest-growing property title for the month of March; in April, Twitter surpassed The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in unique visits. While Twitter may not be able to maintain its astronomical growth rate — a 1382% boost in unique visitors from February 2008 to February 2009, according to Nielsen — it seems to have become a staple in the lives of many people who use it to trade information and stay in touch.
You may be wondering, “What about money? Even though Twitter is popular, that doesn’t mean it’s generating any revenue — which means it may not be sustainable.” That’s a good point, but Twitter doesn’t appear to be stressing over finances. In November, its owners rebuffed Facebook after the social networking rival offered to take over Twitter for stock worth $500 million. And, on the web site, Twitter claims that it’s more interested in improving its service than boosting its bottom line. Meanwhile, speculation abounds over potential revenue streams with one possibility being the sale of commercial accounts to businesses. One can imagine the benefit a company might draw if it can find out, via Twitter, who’s tweeting about their product, who else is receiving those tweets, and what, specifically, those people need in terms of customer care or innovation. What’s more, some of that information can be found on a real-time basis, which could help inform business decisions that need to be made sooner rather than later. Recently, the ability of Twitter’s search engine to deliver data in real time earned praise from no less than an online eminence — the co-founder of Google.
In other words, thanks to shrewd marketing and cutting-edge technology, Twitter appears to have built a sturdy nest in the tree of online media. For Twitter die-hards, that’s great news. For the rest of us, it means enduring a lot more Twitter hype — or joining the growing ranks of tweeters.
Are you staying connected with family and friends through a social networking website like MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn? The Marist Poll clues you in.
– 32% of U.S. residents, including 39% of employed residents, have a profile on a social networking website.
– 59% of Americans under the age of 45 network online while 14% of those 45 or older do the same.
Other Tech Tidbits: