Increasing Social Media Adoption or Aging Effect Among 50+ Year Olds?

The Pew Research Internet Project recently tweeted about an article about social media usage and age groups. It included the chart below that shows there is a generally upward trend (since 2006), which might be flattening, in social media usage across all age groups. Whenever I see a chart on age and something technology related, I always wonder if there is increasing adoption of the technology among the older age groups or if folks are merely aging into a higher age group.


This is merely my hypothesis from looking at this chart. I’d have to run some tests on the data to know if this is true or not. Pew includes a link to a longer article that reports the source of these data. This article also does not mention anything about age effect. My hypothesis from working on similar projects is that this is not longitudinal data with the same cohort. Rather, they surveyed a random sample each year that is representative of the general population. The chart below is the same except that I’ve put in arrows to call out the apparent correspondence between the 50-64 cohort and the 65+ cohort with a one year time lag. This lagged correspondence suggests to me that the 50-64 year olds are aging into the 65+ age category. The pattern isn’t as strong in the 2010 to 2012 time frame because something occurred that made the 50-64 year olds social media usage nearly double. My hypothesis, supported by this older 2012 study also by Pew, is there has been an increase in tablet and e-reader adoption by these baby boomers.





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