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8 facts about Americans and Instagram

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Instagram has grown in popularity this month since it was first launched 10 years ago. The photo and video sharing platform is often used to post mundane pictures of everyday life, but in recent years it has also developed into a marketplace for online influencers, political and election news, and disinformation campaigns. The site is particularly popular with young adults and teenagers, although some Americans have hesitated to use it as a place to exchange news and political information.

Over the years, the Pew Research Center has studied how American adults – as well as teens and children – interact with the platform. Here are eight key takeaways from our research.

As of 2019, Instagram had gained adult users in the United States, but YouTube and Facebook remained the most widely used platforms

About four in ten Americans (37%) say they have used Instagram online or on their mobile phones. According to a survey conducted in January and February 2019, the proportion of US adults who said they had ever used the site rose from 9% in 2012 when the center first asked about the platform. Although Instagram had become one of the most popular online platforms in the United States at the time of the survey, most Americans still did not use it, unlike the two most popular social media platforms – YouTube and Facebook – that of majorities in the US -Adults (73% and 69% respectively).

Young adults, women, and Hispanics are among the groups who most often say they use Instagram. Americans aged 18 to 24 (75%) are the most likely to say they have ever used Instagram. This compares to smaller proportions of those in older groups who say the same thing, with 57% of adults aged 25-29, 47% of 30-49 year olds, 23% of 50-64 year olds, and just 8 % of those 65 and older say they use the platform, according to the center’s 2019 data. Women are also more likely than men to report using the site (43% versus 31%). In addition, Hispanic adults (51%) are more likely to report using Instagram compared to black (40%) or white (33%) Americans.

The majority of adult Instagram users in the US say they use the site on a daily basis. About six in ten adults in the US who use Instagram (63%) say they do it on a daily basis, while smaller proportions say they use the platform weekly (21%) or less often (16%). In comparison, 74% of Facebook users say they use the platform daily and 17% weekly, according to the results of the 2019 survey.

In 2018, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat were the most popular online platforms for teenagers

About seven in ten teenagers in the United States (72%) say they use the website. Only surpassed by YouTube, Instagram ranks second most popular platform among Americans in this age group, according to a survey conducted in March and April 2018. Regardless of this, 15% of teenagers say that Instagram is the platform they use “the most”. That’s less than the proportions who say the same about Snapchat (35%) and YouTube (32%).

Children ages 11 and younger also engage with Instagram, though not as much as with other websites. Although most social media sites have age guidelines that usually prevent children under 13 from joining, around 5% of parents of a child 11 or younger say their child is using Instagram to the best of their knowledge if you only have children between the ages of 9 and 11, this percentage increases to 11%. According to their parents, platforms like TikTok and Snapchat are more popular than Instagram with children up to the age of 11.

Instagram is not a top social media site for getting news. According to a 2019 survey, around one in seven adults in the United States (14%) say they have ever received messages on the platform. This is similar to the proportion who ever received messages on Twitter (17%), but far less than the proportion who ever received messages on Facebook (52%) or YouTube (28%).

There are significant demographic differences in who receives messages from Instagram. According to the same 2019 survey, around six in ten of the site’s news users (62%) are women, while 38% are men. Around eight out of ten news users on the site are under 50 years of age, and a significantly lower proportion are older.

Few trust social media as a place to get political and election news

Few Americans trust Instagram as a place to get political and election news. Only 6% of adults in the US say they trust Instagram as a place to get political and election news, and a much larger proportion (42%) say they distrust the company for such information, according to a fall 2019 survey. About 37% of adults in the US say they neither trust nor distrust the website for this type of news.

Americans have more distrust than trust of all of the social media platforms surveyed. For example, 17% of Americans say they trust YouTube as a place for political and election news, while 36% say they distrust the website. And while 15% of US adults say they trust Facebook for this type of information, a much larger proportion (59%) say they distrust Facebook as a place to get political and election news.

About three in ten Americans know that Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook. In a 2019 survey, Americans were asked questions about a range of digital topics, including some about the social media business. 29% of Americans correctly identified WhatsApp and Instagram as Facebook-owned companies, while 22% answered the question incorrectly. The largest proportion (49%) said they were not sure about the answer to this question.

Brooke Auxier is a former research fellow with a focus on internet and technology at the Pew Research Center.

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