The average person consumes 135 minutes of social media every day—more time than we spend consuming actual food.
How do people feel about this brave new world? Which networks are the most popular? And how do those feelings change from generation to generation?
We used SurveyMonkey Audience to find out, with a special emphasis on differences between generations. To do it, we sent one survey to over 2,000 adult respondents, and a separate survey to teenagers (because teens are not eligible for our Audience panel).
Here are the top 7 takeaways from our research.
1.Maybe social media is not so bad. In spite of bad press, most people are optimistic about the impact of social media. 52% of people think that social media has a very or somewhat positive influence on society, and only 38% think that the impact is negative (10% said there was no impact). Hopefully, that means that fewer people are spending their time online thinking about how successful their high school ex is and more time creating genuine connections with friends and family.
2. Facebook might not be cool, but it’s still hot. Facebook is the most divisive social network—respondents either loved it (47% listed it as their favorite) or hated it (22% listed it as their least favorite), with not many people falling in between. It was the number one platform that users planned to quit, and the one that the most people said they “couldn’t live without.”
But despite people’s reservations (and a some bad press) Facebook’s dominance is unquestionable. The top 2 favorite networks in every region we surveyed were Facebook and Instagram (which is also owned by Facebook).
3. Most teens are still social with their parents. In the world of cliches, mothers and fathers beg their teenagers to come talk to them while the surly kids stare deep into their phones. And maybe Gen Z does have a social media habit, but it’s not necessarily putting a wall up between them and their parents. In fact, 70% of teenagers are friends with their parents on at least one social media platform.
4. But parental supervision varies by channel. 79% of teens who have Facebook are friends with their parents on the platform, and 46% of Instagrammers say the same. Snapchat and Twitter are less common ways to connect with the folks, at 27% and 18%, respectively.
5. For teenagers, a picture is worth 1,000 words. More than three-quarters of teens use Instagram and Snapchat (77% each), but less than half use Facebook (49%) and Twitter (42%). Teens are also more likely to watch video-based social networks than their parents or older siblings.
6. Tick tock, Facebook. Can you compete with short-form video? A Chinese social network that focuses on super short videos—TikTok—exploded in popularity last year, and teenagers were all over it. Their usage of TikTok doubled over the summer. And our research found that nearly half of teens (45%) say they have used TikTok in the last year—which is 6 percentage points more than more than say they used Facebook in the same time period.
7. Millennials are quitters (but just of social media). 69% of millennials have quit a social network, compared with only 28% of respondents over 60. Of course, millennials are probably more likely to have dabbled in more social networks, but it’s still a significant enough difference to be noteworthy.
The sites that millennials were most likely to have quit were Snapchat (30%) and Twitter (26%). Among boomers who’d quit, Twitter was the most common platform to quit at 15%.
Good or bad, social media is simply a part of life now. They represent a new way to connect and interact. It’s possible that the differences between generations say something about the way that those groups prefer to communicate and learn—visually, instantly, ephemerally etc. Or, maybe everyone’s just in it for the memes.