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The Pros, Cons and Learning Curve of Social Media

NEW YORK Jan. 18, 2011

http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100517/NY06256LOGO

The Harris Poll between December 6 and 13, 2010 Harris Interactive

While a majority of U.S. adults are using social media (65%), and a similar number say they have received a positive benefit from its use, adoption is not consistent across the board.  Rather, younger Americans claim positive benefits as a result of their social media use much more often than do older adults.  For example, a majority of Echo Boomers (those 18-33) say they have received a positive suggestion for something to try from their activity on social media (59%), compared to 44% of Gen Xers (those 34-45), one third of Baby Boomers (those 46-64) (34%), and just one in five Matures (those 65 and older) (19%).  Similarly, one quarter of Echo Boomers have found a job opportunity through social media (24%), while only one in ten Baby Boomers say the same (11%).

Not All Fun and Games

Despite all of the benefits people are receiving from their social media use, similar numbers say they have suffered negative consequences from this activity, such as the two in five social media users who say they have been offended by posts, comments or pictures they’ve seen (43%) and the quarter who say that unintended persons have viewed links or comments they’ve posted (26%).  Fewer social media users say they have suffered the more serious consequences of getting in trouble with school or work, or losing a potential job opportunity because of comments or pictures they posted online (7% for both).  Despite younger Americans receiving benefits from social media use more often than older adults, younger Americans also suffer the consequences of social media use at a greater rate.  This may, in part, be due to younger Americans greater use of social media overall, which could expose them to both the benefits and consequences of what’s currently available.

Lessons Learned

As more people use social media and the services continue to expand, the potential benefits of use grow, as do the possible consequences.  As a result, social media networks are increasingly offering privacy settings to combat the negative experiences some users have already experienced, and to prevent others from taking place.  When social media users were asked if potentially negative experiences can be prevented through the use of these privacy settings, over three quarters agreed that they can be (78%) with three in ten strongly agreeing (28%).  In addition, 71% of social media users are confident that their own privacy settings operate in the way they intend, but only one in five say they are very confident (18%).  While a quarter of social media users are not confident in their privacy settings (25%), it seems that almost all social media users are at least trying to use these options for security assurance—only 5% of social media users say they do not use any privacy settings at all.  Similarly to the other areas of social media explored, younger adults  who use social media feel more strongly both that privacy settings can prevent negative consequences (82% of Echo Boomers say this, compared to 70% of Matures) and that they are confident in their own privacy settings (78% of Echo Boomers, compared to 61% of Baby Boomers).

So What?

Social media services have brought both good and bad for users.  However, newly introduced privacy settings are now helping to prevent potential harm associated with social media use.  As social media users become more adept at understanding the nuances of how things work online and these privacy controls, hopefully they will become even more successful at managing their experiences, to the point where the positive benefits eclipse the negative consequences, and users can take more advantage of what’s offered online with little concern for potential dangers.  But, at the same time, there is also a possibility that as more people use social media, and do so casually, that they will become less careful with their settings and the 7% who have suffered more serious consequences will grow. It’s up to each and every user.

TABLE 1A

SOCIAL MEDIA BENEFI TS

"Have you ever had the following positive, tangible benefits, from being active on social media?"

Base: All adults

Yes

(NET)

Yes,

frequently

Yes, on

occasion

No, never

Not

Applicable

– I do not

use social

media

%

%

%

%

%

Received a good suggestion for something to try

40

7

33

25

35

Made a connection regarding a job opportunity

15

3

12

50

35

Found a new apartment or house

9

3

6

56

35

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 1B

SOCIAL MEDIA BENEFITS

"Have you ever had the following positive, tangible benefits, from being active on social media?"

Summary of those saying "yes, frequently" or "yes, on occasion"

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Echo

Boomers

(18-33)

Gen X

(34-45)

Baby

Boomers

(46-64)

Matures

(65+)

%

%

%

%

%

Received a good suggestion for something to try

40

59

44

34

19

Made a connection regarding a job opportunity

15

24

19

11

4

Found a new apartment or house

9

17

9

5

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to ro unding.

TABLE 2A

SOCIAL MEDIA CONSEQUENCES

"And, have you ever had the following negative experience as a result of being active on social media?"

Base: Social media users

Yes

(NET)

Yes,

frequently

Yes, on

occasion

No, never

%

%

%

%

Been offended by posts, comments or pictures I’ve seen

43

8

35

57

Unintended persons viewed links I posted or comments I made

26

6

20

74

Got in trouble with school or work because of pictures posted of me online

7

4

3

93

Lost a potential job opportunity because of pictures or posts I’ve made online

7

4

3

93

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding .

TABLE 2B

SOCIAL MEDIA CONSEQUENCES

"And, have you ever had the following negative experience as a result of being active on social media?"

Summary of those saying "yes , frequently" or "yes, on occasion"

Base: Social media users

Total

Generation

Gender

Echo

Boomers

(18-33)

Gen X

(34-45)

Baby

Boomers

(46-64)

Matures

(65+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Been offended by posts, comments or pictures I’ve seen

43

51

39

43

28

38

48

Unintended persons viewed links I posted or comments I made

26

37

29

17

13

30

22

Got in trouble with school or work because of pictures posted of me online

7

12

9

3

10

4

Lost a potential job opportunity because of pictures or posts I’ve made online

7

11

8

3

10

3

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 3

PRIVACY SETTINGS

"Do you agree or disagree that potentially negative experiences resulting from social media activity can be prevented through the use of priva cy settings?"

Base: Social media users

Total

Generation

Echo

Boomers

(18-33)

Gen X

(34-45)

Baby

Boomers

(46-64)

Matures

(65+)

%

%

%

%

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