• #Americans’ complicated feelings about #socialmedia in an era of #privacy concerns

    By


    (Busakorn Pongparnit)

    Amid public concerns over Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data and a subsequent movement to encourage users to abandon Facebook, there is a renewed focus on how social media companies collect personal information and make it available to marketers.

    Pew Research Center has studied the spread and impact of social media since 2005, when just 5% of American adults used the platforms. The trends tracked by our data tell a complex story that is full of conflicting pressures. On one hand, the rapid growth of the platforms is testimony to their appeal to online Americans. On the other, this widespread use has been accompanied by rising user concerns about privacy and social media firms’ capacity to protect their data.

    All this adds up to a mixed picture about how Americans feel about social media. Here are some of the dynamics.

     

    People like and use social media for several reasons

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    About seven-in-ten American adults (69%) now report they use some kind of social media platform (not including YouTube) – a nearly fourteenfold increase since Pew Research Center first started asking about the phenomenon. The growth has come across all demographic groups and includes 37% of those ages 65 and older.

    The Center’s polls have found over the years that people use social media for important social interactions like staying in touch with friends and family and reconnecting with old acquaintances. Teenagers are especially likely to report that social media are important to their friendships and, at times, their romantic relationships.

    Beyond that, we have documented how social media play a role in the way people participate in civic and political activities, launch and sustain protests, get and share health information, gather scientific information, engage in family matters, perform job-related activities and get news. Indeed, social media is now just as common a pathway to news for people as going directly to a news organization website or app.

    Our research has not established a causal relationship between people’s use of social media and their well-being. But in a 2011 report, we noted modest associations between people’s social media use and higher levels of trust, larger numbers of close friends, greater amounts of social support and higher levels of civic participation.

    People worry about privacy and the use of their personal information

    While there is evidence that social media works in some important ways for people, Pew Research Center studies have shown that people are anxious about all the personal information that is collected and shared and the security of their data.

    Overall, a 2014 survey found that 91% of Americans “agree” or “strongly agree” that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by all kinds of entities. Some 80% of social media users said they were concerned about advertisers and businesses accessing the data they share on social media platforms, and 64% said the government should do more to regulate advertisers.

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    Another survey last year found that just 9% of social media users were “very confident” that social media companies would protect their data. About half of users were not at all or not too confident their data were in safe hands.

    Moreover, people struggle to understand the nature and scope of the data collected about them. Just 9% believe they have “a lot of control” over the information that is collected about them, even as the vast majority (74%) say it is very important to them to be in control of who can get information about them.

    Six-in-ten Americans (61%) have said they would like to do more to protect their privacy. Additionally, two-thirds have said current laws are not good enough in protecting people’s privacy, and 64% support more regulation of advertisers.

    Some hope that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which goes into effect on May 25, will give users – even Americans – greater protections about what data tech firms can collect, how the data can be used, and how consumers can be given more opportunities to see what is happening with their information.

    People’s issues with the social media experience go beyond privacy

    In addition to the concerns about privacy and social media platforms uncovered in our surveys, related research shows that just 5% of social media users trust the information that comes to them via the platforms “a lot.”

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    Moreover, social media users can be turned off by what happens on social media. For instance, social media sites are frequently cited as places where people are harassed. Near the end of the 2016 election campaign, 37% of social media users said they were worn out by the political content they encountered, and large shares said social media interactions with those opposed to their views were stressful and frustrating. Large shares also said that social media interactions related to politics were less respectful, less conclusive, less civil and less informative than offline interactions.

    A considerable number of social media users said they simply ignored political arguments when they broke out in their feeds. Others went steps further by blocking or unfriending those who offended or bugged them.

    Why do people leave or stay on social media platforms?

    The paradox is that people use social media platforms even as they express great concern about the privacy implications of doing so – and the social woes they encounter. The Center’s most recent survey about social media found that 59% of users said it would not be difficult to give up these sites, yet the share saying these sites would be hard to give up grew 12 percentage points from early 2014.

    Some of the answers about why people stay on social media could tie to our findings about how people adjust their behavior on the sites and online, depending on personal and political circumstances. For instance, in a 2012 report we found that 61% of Facebook users said they had taken a break from using the platform. Among the reasons people cited were that they were too busy to use the platform, they lost interest, they thought it was a waste of time and that it was filled with too much drama, gossip or conflict.

    In other words, participation on the sites for many people is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

    People pursue strategies to try to avoid problems on social media and the internet overall. Fully 86% of internet users said in 2012 they had taken steps to try to be anonymous online. “Hiding from advertisers” was relatively high on the list of those they wanted to avoid.

    Many social media users fine-tune their behavior to try to make things less challenging or unsettling on the sites, including changing their privacy settings and restricting access to their profiles. Still, 48% of social media users reported in a 2012 survey they have difficulty managing their privacy controls.

    After National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed details about government surveillance programs starting in 2013, 30% of adults said they took steps to hide or shield their information and 22% reported they had changed their online behavior in order to minimize detection.

    One other argument that some experts make in Pew Research Center canvassings about the future is that people often find it hard to disconnect because so much of modern life takes place on social media. These experts believe that unplugging is hard because social media and other technology affordances make life convenient and because the platforms offer a very efficient, compelling way for users to stay connected to the people and organizations that matter to them.

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  • 8 facts about Americans and Facebook

    8 facts about Americans and Facebook

    Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms among adults in the United States. At the same time, it has attracted scrutiny in recent years because of concerns over its ability to keep users’ personal information private and its role in the 2016 presidential election. Here are eight facts about Americans and Facebook, based on Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2018:

    1 Around two-thirds (68%) of U.S. adults use Facebook, according to a survey conducted in January. That’s unchanged from April 2016, the last time the Center asked this question, but up from 54% of adults in August 2012.

    With the exception of YouTube – the video-sharing platform used by 73% of adults – no other major social media platform comes close to Facebook in terms of usage. Around a third of U.S. adults (35%) say they use Instagram, while smaller shares say they use Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp.

    2 Among U.S. adults who use Facebook, around three-quarters (74%) visit the site at least once a day, according to the January survey. The share of adult users who visit Facebook at least once a day is higher than the shares who visit Snapchat (63%) and Instagram (60%) at least once a day. However, similar shares of Facebook and Snapchat users say they visit each site several times a day (51% and 49%, respectively).

    3 Facebook is popular among all demographic groups, though some adults are more likely to use it than others. Nearly three-quarters of women in the U.S. (74%) use the platform, compared with 62% of men. There are differences by community type and education level, too: Adults in urban areas are more likely to use it than those in suburban or rural areas, as are those with a college degree when compared with people who have lower levels of education.

    Around eight-in-ten (81%) of those ages 18 to 29 use Facebook – about twice the share among those 65 and older (41%). However, the share of older Americans who use the platform has doubled since August 2012, when just 20% of those 65 and older said they used it.

    4 Facebook is used by around half of America’s teens, but it no longer dominates the teen social media landscape as it once did, according to a survey of U.S. teens conducted in March and April. Today, 51% of those ages 13 to 17 say they use the platform, down from 71% in a 2014-2015 survey.

    The top sites among today’s teens include YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%) and Snapchat (69%). In the 2014-2015 survey, Facebook was the only platform used by a clear majority of teens.

    5 Lower-income teens are more likely than higher-income teens to use Facebook. U.S. teens generally use similar social media platforms regardless of their demographic characteristics. When it comes to Facebook, however, seven-in-ten teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use the platform, compared with 36% of those whose annual family income is $75,000 or more.

    6Facebook is a pathway to news for around four-in-ten U.S. adults

    Around four-in-ten U.S. adults (43%) get news from Facebook, according to a survey conducted in July and August. The share of U.S. adults who get news through Facebook is much higher than the shares who get news through YouTube (21%), Twitter (12%), Instagram (8%), LinkedIn (6%) and other platforms. Among U.S. adults who get news from Facebook, women are more likely than men to do this (61% vs. 39%), as are whites when compared with nonwhites (62% vs. 37%).

    742% of Facebook users have taken a break from the site in the past year

    Many adult Facebook users have a complex relationship with the platform. A little over half of adult Facebook users in the U.S. (54%) have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a separate Center survey conducted in May and June. The survey followed revelations that former consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge or permission.

    About four-in-ten adult Facebook users (42%) have taken a break from checking the platform for several weeks or more, and about a quarter (26%) have deleted the app from their phone at some point in the past year. Combined, 74% of adult Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions.

    8 Many adult Facebook users in the U.S. lack a clear understanding of how the platform’s news feed works, according to the May and June survey. Around half of these users (53%) say they do not understand why certain posts are included in their news feed and others are not, including 20% who say they do not understand this at all.

    Just 14% of Facebook users believe ordinary users have a lot of control over the content that appears in their news feed, while twice as many (28%) say users have no control. (A 57% majority of Facebook users say they have a little control over what appears in their news feed.) Around six-in-ten Facebook users (63%) say they have not intentionally tried to influence or change the content that appears on their news feed.

    Note: This is an update of a post originally published on April 10, 2018.

    Topics: Online Communities, Social Media, Internet Activities, Technology Adoption

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  • What Do Blue And Red America Have In Common? Craft Breweries — And More

    What Do Blue And Red America Have In Common? Craft Breweries — And More

     

    A customer returns a keg to the Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, N.H., in 2017.

    Robert F. Bukaty/AP

    The country's cultural divide, as evidenced by Tuesday's elections, is a real one.

    But there are some things that are part of the American experience, whether you're biking across Manhattan or driving a 4x4 through Montana.

    We analyzed 11 touchstones of American life and how common they were in districts that voted Republican and Democratic during this week's elections. Democrats won the most House districts Tuesday, so below we've sorted them from places that are mostly found in Democratic districts to those that are mostly found in districts that voted for Republicans.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the Fortune 500 companies?

    The most? 36 in NY 12 (New York City, voted Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? 255.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the Starbucks?

    The most? 138 in NY 12 (New York City, voted Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? One, as of these data being collected — but a tipster points out on Twitter that OK 12 has since built its only Starbucks.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the major sports venues?

    The most? Eight in both MA 07 (near Boston, voted Democratic) and TN 05 (Nashville, Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? 123.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the craft breweries?

    The most? 68 in CO 02 (near Denver, voted Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? Eight.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the Amtrak stations?

    The most? 12 in Montana (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 183.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the museums?

    The most? 303 in ME 02 (uncalled race).

    How many districts don't have any? None. (So no excuse not to go to one every once in a while!)


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the military installations?

    The most? 21 in Alaska (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 157.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the state fair grounds?

    The most? Four in Alaska (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 367.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the hospitals?

    The most? 77 in both KS 01 (voted Republican) and South Dakota (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? None.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the mobile home parks?

    The most? 526 in FL 02 (Panama City, Tallahassee suburbs; voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 20.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the farms?

    The most? 35,850 in NE 03 (voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 20.

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