Lee Rainie at Pew Research Center's Fact Tank: Americans' Complicated Feelings About Social Media in an Era of Privacy Concerns

Andrew Young — March 29, 2018

In a new piece for Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank, Lee Rainie shares insights and trends surfaced by the Center since 2005. Rainie notes that, 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.”

After presenting data regarding the public’s high levels of social media use and their concerns regarding personal privacy, Rainie seeks to make sense of an apparent disconnect:

“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.”

Read more here.