Surprise! Americans use social media to connect with friends, family, Pew study shows

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Are you sitting down? Ok, good — because you mind is about to be blown. According to a newly-released study from Pew Internet Research, two-thirds of all Americans who use social networks do so to stay in touch with current friends and/or family. And half say re-connecting with old friends is a “major reason” for using social networks. Shocking, isn’t it?

Connecting with family as a reason to use social networks — which, for this study, include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (really?) and LinkedIn — remain consistent regardless of “age, income, education, race/ethnicity, parental status or place of residence,” Pew found. That said, the study shows that women are significantly more likely than men to cite family connections as playing a major role, with 72 percent of women saying family is a major reason for using these site, versus a mere 55 percent of men.

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Younger Americans, ages 18 to 49, were far more likely to use social networks as a way to keep in touch with current friends and rekindle past connections with older friends than those over the age of 50.

Using social networks to connect with people who share similar hobbies and other interests was another motivation for logging on, but this was more true for older adults than younger ones, with 16 percent of 30-49-year-olds and 18 percent of 50-64-year-olds citing hobbies as a motivating factor. Only 10 percent of 18-29-year-olds say shared interests played a role.

Those who use Twitter were more likely than those who don’t use Twitter to cite the ability to read comments by celebrities, politicians and athletes as a reason for using social networks, with 11 percent of Twitter users saying this is a major reason, and 30 percent saying it’s a minor reason. That compares to 4 percent and 11 percent of non-Twitter, respectively, who say this plays a major or minor role in their social media usage. Black and Latino social media users also more often say connections with famous people is a reason for using these networks.

A full 84 percent of all those survey say they do not use social media for finding people to date.

About the study:

The results reported here are based on a national telephone survey of 2,277 adults conducted April 26-May 22, 2011. 1,522 interviews were conducted by landline phone, and 755 interviews were conducted by cell phone. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.  For results based on social networking site users, the margin of error is +/-3 percentage points (n=1,015).

[Image via ra2 studio/Shutterstock]

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