Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65 percent) use social networking sites, up from a mere 7 percent since 2005, according to a new report from Pew Research.

A special analysis of 27 national surveys of Americans across the past decade documents this substantial spread of technology throughout the population, although the overall number of users of social networking sites has leveled off since 2013.

At the same time, there continues to be growth in social media usage among some groups that were not among the earliest adopters, including older Americans.

The study found that younger adults, 18-29 continue to be the heaviest social media users (90 percent today compared to 12 percent in 2005). But there has also been a significant bump among those 30-49 from 8 percent in 2005 to 77 percent today.

Seniors too, are using social media in much greater numbers, up from a mere 2 percent in 2005 to 35 percent today. (Editor’s note: we’ve noticed that among our own senior friends, who are using Facebook much more often).

Women and men use social media at comparable rates, Pew says, with 689 percent of women and 62 percent of men on social media sites.

Affluent households strong social media users

Those with higher education levels are much more likely to be social media users than others. Those who have attended at least some college are more likely than those with a high school diploma or less to use social media, a trend that has been consistent since 2005. In that year, 4 percent of those with a high school diploma or less used social media, along with 8% of those who attended some college and 12 percent of college graduates.

Affluent households are also more likely to be social media users, Pew says – good news to marketers using Facebook and other social media. Today, 78 percent of those living in the highest-income households use social media, compared with 56 percent of those in the lowest-income households – a 22-point difference.

Differing from past Pew reports, the numbers reported are for social media use among all adults, not just those who are Internet users (about 15 percent).

Emerging trends

Across demographic groups, a number of trends emerge in this analysis of social media usage:

  • Age differences: Seniors make strides – Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media – fully 90% do. Still, usage among those 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010 when 11% used social media. Today, 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.
  • Gender differences: Women and men use social media at similar rates – Women were more likely than men to use social networking sites for a number of years, although since 2014 these differences have been modest. Today, 68% of all women use social media, compared with 62% of all men.
  • Socio-economic differences: Those with higher education levels and household income lead the way – Over the past decade, it has consistently been the case that those in higher-income households were more likely to use social media.
  • More than half (56%) of those living in the lowest-income households now use social media, though growth has leveled off in the past few years. Turning to educational attainment, a similar pattern is observed. Those with at least some college experience have been consistently more likely than those with a high school degree or less to use social media over the past decade. 2013 was the first year that more than half of those with a high school diploma or less used social media.
  • Racial and ethnic similarities: There are not notable differences by racial or ethnic group: 65% of whites, 65% of Hispanics and 56% of African-Americans use social media today.
  • Community differences: More than half of rural residents now use social media – Those who live in rural areas are less likely than those in suburban and urban communities to use social media, a pattern consistent over the past decade. Today, 58% of rural residents, 68% of suburban residents, and 64% of urban residents use social media.