“Old habits die hard” goes the old adage. To that, we can add that new habits are born hard: It takes a lot to modify the daily routines of we humans. That makes the outburst of social media usage the past 14 years all the more mind-boggling. Social media has rewritten the social contract. (Online magazine Digital Trends pegs the birth of social media to the 2002 debut of Friendster.)
“Media consumption is showing signs of being dramatically changed by both technology and by new paradigms,” says Tom Webster of Edison Research.
In the past eight years, our use of social media has more than tripled. Today, 78 percent of Americans (or 212 million people) ages 12 and older use it on a regular basis. That’s according to a new survey just released by Edison as part of its perennial report branded Infinite Dial. (Details of the survey methodology are at the end of this article.)
The overseer of social media is Facebook, by a large margin, with 64 percent usage across all ages 12 years and older. Number 2, at a distant 29 percent usage, is Instagram, followed by Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn, all in the 20-25 percent range.
What no doubt will be a surprise to most people in the older age groups is that, when the 12-24 year-old cohort is isolated in the survey, their favorite social medium is neither Facebook nor Instagram (at 68 and 66 percent, respectively). It is SnapChat, preferred by almost three-quarters of them (72 percent). My 25-year-old daughter Elissa is an avid user, while I have yet to add it to my phone.
As described by Pocket-lint.com, SnapChat is “the popular mobile app that allows you to send videos and pictures, both of which will self-destruct after a few seconds of a person viewing them.” Hmm. “Destroying the evidence” is one way of looking at that, if you’re the suspicious type, which I most definitely am… not.
The question surrounding SnapChat is whether it’s stranglehold on the youngest age group spells future trouble for Facebook. The study concludes that SnapChat fans are becoming harder to reach on the older social media channels, where they are spending less time.
The survey also reveals that more of us (25 percent) follow political news or candidates through Facebook than via any other social media brand. Twitter is used by 11 percent. Each of the other platforms is used by less than 10 percent.
This political junkie finds the political discourse on Facebook frustrating, to put it mildly. A disproportionate number of comments flout civility and sneer in the face of rational analysis. At their worst, political posts are prone to launch immoderate attacks, without respect for facts, devoid of any apparent effort to verify information before posting. That’s on both sides of the aisle. It feels like a radio slogan: “All emotion all the time.”
That explains why my forays into Facebook are now fewer and far between. I’m undergoing the same purging process with those bobble-head political TV programs I used to DVR for fear of missing some juicy insight or exchange. No more. They are peopled with partisan parrots who add nothing to my quality of life.
Just like junk food is bad for my physical health, ingesting noise and nonsense is bad for my mental health. I’d rather nibble on nuance, and my diet is working. I’m enjoying the sort of inner peace attained after you stop banging your head against the wall.
Meanwhile, back at the survey, other notable conclusions it draws relate to Netflix and podcasts.
In the category of “on-demand video,” Netflix is used by 43 percent of those surveyed, almost double the subscriber base of Amazon Prime (22 percent).
“On-demand audio,” or podcasts, says the survey, have “made the jump to mainstream,” with nearly 100 million Americans at some point tuning in.
Edison remarks that the binge-viewing trend associated with watching TV series on Netflix, together with the binge-listening induced by on-demand audio, dispels the “myth” that our attention spans are shrinking. It’s more like they are becoming serialized. Heck, binge-viewing is a lot less dangerous than chain-smoking.
The Infinite Dial 2016 study by Edison Research and Triton Digital was conducted by contacting 2,001 persons 12 years and older from Jan. 5, 2016-Feb. 10, 2016. They were selected by Random Digital Dial (RDD), with 52 percent of interviews on a landline phone and 48 percent on a mobile phone to reflect national usage patterns. Edison calls Infinite Dial (#infinitedial), which started in 1998, “the longest-running survey of digital media consumer behavior in America.”
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency. Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers and a writer for Westchester Magazine. Follow him as Bruce the Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.