The Pros, Cons and Learning Curve of Social Media

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – January 18, 2011 – Social media has opened the door, or more accurately, many doors, to increasingly numerous ways for people to interact with others, customize their online experiences and receive positive, enriching benefits from their activity therein. In fact, two in five Americans say that they have received a good suggestion for something to try as a result of their use of social media (40%), 15% say they have made a connection regarding a job opportunity, and one in ten say they have found a new apartment or house through their social media use (9%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,331 adults surveyed online between December 6 and 13, 2010 by 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 BENEFITS

    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 rounding.

     

     

     

     

    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 privacy settings?

    Base: Social media users

    Total

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-33)

    Gen X (34-45)

    Baby Boomers (46-64)

    Matures (65+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Agree (NET)

    78

    82

    81

    74

    70

    Strongly agree

    28

    34

    28

    24

    25

    Somewhat agree

    49

    48

    52

    50

    45

    Disagree (NET)

    14

    13

    13

    16

    16

    Somewhat disagree

    10

    10

    10

    9

    12

    Strongly disagree

    4

    2

    3

    7

    4

    Not at all sure

    8

    5

    6

    10

    14

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

     


     

    TABLE 4

    CONFIDENCE IN PRIVACY SETTINGS

    How confident are you that the privacy settings selected on your social media account(s) function in the way that you would like?

    Base: Social media users

    Total

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-33)

    Gen X (34-45)

    Baby Boomers (46-64)

    Matures (65+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Confident (NET)

    71

    78

    76

    61

    68

    Very confident

    18

    24

    22

    11

    8

    Somewhat confident

    53

    53

    54

    50

    59

    Not Confident (NET)

    25

    19

    20

    33

    27

    Not very confident

    18

    16

    15

    23

    17

    Not at all confident

    7

    3

    5

    10

    10

    Not applicable – I do not use any privacy settings

    5

    3

    4

    6

    6

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

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 6 to 13, 2010 among 2,331 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

     

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39118

    Q805, 810, 815, 820

     

    The Harris Poll ® #6, January 18, 2011

    By Samantha Braverman, Senior Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

     

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.