In a new study released today, Pew Internet Research found that 66 percent of American adults online use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. They cite staying in touch with family and friends as one of the major reasons for using these sites. Seventy-one percent of the younger demographic, ages 18-29, cites staying in touch with current friends as a major reason for using social networks. Fifty-five percent of users ages 30-49 are on social networking sites to connect with old friends they'd lost touch with.


Even though hobbies and interest fan pages proliferate on Facebook, only 14% of users say that they go on social media sites to connect around a shared hobby or interest. Only nine percent of users say making new friends is a key reason for joining social media. Reading comments by public figures and finding partners is a big reason for only five percent and three percent of users, respectively. Middle-aged and older adults tend to use social media more for connecting around a hobby or interest. Sixteen percent of 30-49-year-olds and 18 percent of 50-64-year-olds use social media for connecting around a hobby or interest versus only 10 percent of 18-29-year-olds.

Gender plays a key role in this study, which reveals that women are more likely than men to cite family connections (72 percent vs. 55 percent) and friends (70 percent vs. 63 percent) as major reasons for using social media sites. Men are more likely to use social media to connect around a hobby or interest, with 56 percent citing it as a major reason for using social media versus only 44 percent of female users. Twelve percent of men are more likely to use social media for meeting new friends.

Of all social media users, Twitter users are the most interested in connecting with public figures. One in 10 Twitter users (11%) say that reading comments by politicians, celebs or athletes is a major reason for using social networks.

Social media does not play a major role in helping people find potential partners--more than eight in 10 (84%) do not use social media for this reason.