The figure above describes trends showing the levels of increase or decrease in internet users social networking site use by age group from 2005-2013 in the United States. Notably, the 80% increase in social networking usage in a 8 year time span for 18-29 year olds, and 70%, 54%, and 42% increases respectively by age.
Social Networking use by age group in the United States is a topic that has remained prevalent over the last few years due to a rapid increase in connectivity and the variability of the networking usage. Professional, educational, social, and communal information gathering and effective, time efficient communication across borders has become paramount to being a connected member of society for both the young and old.
Many people in the 18-29 age range have been known to be increasingly interested and focused upon the idea of portraying a positive self-image due to a flux of social movements during the 2005-2013 time period. For this reason, social media allows for individuals or groups to display a perfect version of what one may desire for their life to resemble to friends and strangers alike. In addition, social media and networking sites often allow for a connection that can lead to intimate relationships and allow individuals to experience things that they may be fearful of engaging in a physical or normal setting. The social movements that sparked much of the rapid increase displayed in the graph include the founding of Twitter as more than social media but a news source, popular ‘social networking challenges to raise money for charity, such as the ALS ice bucket challenged, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, all which gained the most momentum in 2013.
According to a CNN report, major natural disasters taking place across the world became a main reason for an increase in social networking usage to check on the safety of family and friends, and following the initial shock, to stay more closely connected with loved ones and friends. This was widely seen an earthquake Haiti in 2010; non-profit organizations and relief groups used social networking sites to help aid rescue efforts and support the community in various ways both monetarily and socially (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/01/14/cashmore.haiti.earthquake.relief.technology/index.html). The popular crowdfunding platform GoFundMe was also created in 2010 that allows for people from all over the world to quickly donate money to a social movement, natural disaster, personal crisis, mission, and various other funding types. This social cause of providing for others over social networking sites was a popular push.
Another leading social cause of the drastic increase from 9% in 2005 to 89% in 2013 could be those age 18-29 coming of age to vote and therefore desiring to use social networking to gather information on political situations and share their personal views on politics. According to Pew Research, “Democrats are more likely than Republicans to report participating in activities on social media; whereas Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say they have used social media in the past year to research information about rallies or protests happening in their area. (https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/07/11/public-attitudes-toward-political-engagement-on-social-media/)” Therefore, the presidential change from 2005 – 2013 would’ve had a drastic impact on the use of social networking platforms; with a shift from republican George W. Bush to democratic Barack Obama and U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Additionally, in 2010, Hillary Clinton outlined the United States promotion of internet freedom in America and internationally. This law took away the ability for governmental censorship from social networking sites as well as promoting public speech on both private and social uses of media. Because of this drastic shift in the view on social networking, this could explain the first peak in the graph trends for all age groups (https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25800379.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A0059ed2d2667bfb3b1057a64b97642d7). Other such notable societal shifts due to the government come with the presidents memorandum on transparency and open government in social networking in 2009, as well as the presidential memorandum on building a 2st century digital government in 2012. The presidential backing of a digitalization of the US governmental processes and the inclusion of citizens created a societal shift of ‘belonging’ and ‘easier access to preciously difficult to understand information. (https://edit.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/elips/documents/470_dm_2_digital_media_policy_1.pdf)
Possible social causes behind increase in the use of social networking sites by all age groups in the United States could be the desire to meet new people, the availability and monetary ease of access, networking in the job market, and to maintain relationships with more ease than physical presence.
Overall, I believe although research shows that as social networking use increases, self-esteem decrease, that social networking will continue to be on the rise due to generational shifts in appreciation for technology, the technologizing of businesses, education, dating, and communication. In my opinion, this could be due to a societal desire to release of pent up emotional turmoil to anyone who will listen or fuel societal comparison in either affirming or degrading one’s own personal views.
The United States could greatly benefit from policy changes that require more data protection and privacy on social networking sites regarding the sharing of information from domain owners to third party platforms. Other than increased security, the rise of social networking should be seen in a positive light as it increases connectivity and creates a more unified people.
- Brenner, Joanna, et al. “72% of Online adults are social networking site users” _Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 18 Feb. 2014, www.pewinternet.org/2013/08/05/72-of-online-adults-are-social-networking-site-users/.