From the outset Facebook was a bit more grownup than MySpace, which has been, at least according to Internet legend, the teen realm. But as of the end of 2008, grownups have pretty much raided all of the social networks.
Recently, one teen I know lamented that his friends at school preferred Facebook. “MySpace is better,” he said. “They let you customize your page and there aren’t as many old people there.”
He’s trying to lead a movement, but if and when he returns to MySpace he may be in for a surprise. According to Pew Internet and American Life, the number of adults using social networks has quadrupled since 2005.
And that means there are more adults using social networks than teens these days. Though 65 percent of teens are populating online networks compared to only 35 percent of adults, the number of people in the world over 18 is obviously much larger.
Don’t get those supposedly stuffy grownups wrong, though. They really take the “social” part of social networking seriously. Pew says adults use social networks primarily for personal reasons, like connecting with people they already know, and reserve business networking for where it belongs: at sites like LinkedIn.
Fortunately for the teens concerned about adult saturation, the bulk of grown up social networkers skew younger: 75 percent of the those ages 18-24 are networking, compared to just seven percent of those over 65.
But don’t expect that to last forever. Says one Kentucky-to-Atlanta transplant I know who has not yet embraced the online social network: “A friend of my parents died and, aside from the posting in the local paper, the family only sent out word via Facebook. And I’m like, is this the way it’s going to be? The only way I’m going to know if somebody dies is if I’m on Facebook?”