Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Social networking sites and our lives

Part 1: Introduction

The impact of social networking sites on users’ lives

There has been a great deal of speculation about the impact of social networking sites (SNS) on users’ lives. Some fear that SNS use might diminish human relationships and contact, perhaps increasing social isolation. Others exult that pervasive connectivity using technology will add to people’s stores of social capital and lead to other social payoffs.

We tackle these important issues with the results of what we believe is the first national, representative survey of American adults on their use of SNS and their overall social networks. Some 2,255 American adults were surveyed between October 20-November 28, 2010, including 1,787 internet users. There were 975 users of SNS such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter.1

In this report, we recognize that there is a great deal of variation in how people use SNS, in the types of platforms that are available, and the types of people that are attracted to different sites. We pull these variables apart and provide a detailed picture of what SNS users look like, which SNS platforms different people use, and the relationship between uses of technology and the size and structure of people’s overall social networks. We also examine the amount of support SNS users receive from their social ties, their ability to consider multiple view points, their levels of social trust, and their community, civic, and political participation, and we compare them with users and non-users of other technologies.


  1. The margin of error on the entire survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points, on the internet users is plus or minus 3 percentage points, and for the SNS users is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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