Facebook vs. porn

Here’s another interesting trend, as revealed in Time:

… after other social networks, the most clicked-on category of sites was search engines, with 11.6% of all downstream visits. Web-based e-mail services were next with 8.5%. Blogs came in third in popularity at 6.1%, claiming more than four times the number of visits to traditional news sites, which logged 1.5% of downstream visits.

Perhaps a more interesting — and more accurate — way to figure out where college students are going online is to assess which of the 172 web categories tracked by Hitwise get the most hits from 18- to 24-year-olds. Here’s a shocker: Porn is not No. 1. I’ve actually been puzzled by the decrease in visits to the Adult Entertainment category over the last two years. Visits to porn sites have dropped from 16.9% of all site visits in the U.S. in October 2005 to 11.9% as of last week, a 33% decline. Currently, for web users over the age of 25, Adult Entertainment still ranks high in popularity, coming in second, after search engines. Not so for 18- to 24-year-olds, for whom social networks rank first, followed by search engines, then web-based e-mail — with porn sites lagging behind in fourth. If you chart the rate of visits to social-networking sites against those to adult sites over the last two years, there appears to be a strong negative correlation (i.e., visits to social networks go up as visits to adult sites go down). It’s a leap to say there’s a real correlation there, but if there is one, then I’d bet it has everything to do with Gen Y’s changing habits: they’re too busy chatting with friends to look at online skin. Imagine.

One question left by reading Bill Tancer’s article is: though social networking enjoys a higher percentage than porn at present, has the actual visiting of porn sites dropped among Millennials? Or are they just visiting Facebook more… in other words, more internet activity?

Millennials' webnetworking and ethnicity

Interesting research at Northwestern finds a connection between ethnicity and the sites millennials choose for their social networking activity.

The research surveyed just over 1000 freshmen at my daughter’s school, UIC — which is in the top 10 nationally in terms of student ethnic diversity.

Facebook enjoys 80% usage, 75% frequently. MySpace is used by 54%, 40% frequently. Then comes Xanga, Friendster, Orkut, and Bebo, all of them at under 10% usage.

Whites disproportionally choose Facebook, while Hispanics prefer MySpace and Asians disproportionally choose NOT to use MySpace. Asians use Facebook, too, but also choose Xanga in disproportionate numbers. The study found no preference of one site over another among African-American young people. It also found that kids who live with their parents (which happens perhaps more at a commuter school like UIC) are “considerably less likely to use Facebook than their more socially connected peers.”

Even more interesting to me was a very strong correlation between parental education level and the choice of social networking sites:

Students whose parents have a college degree are significantly more likely to use Facebook than those whose parents have some college experience but no degree. MySpace users, on the other hand, are more likely to have parents with less than a high school education than those whose parents had some college experience.

The study confirms what we all know instinctively, that we are all influenced by our nurture…. If we are inclined to get involved, we’ll also get involved online. If we are inclined to hang out in certain circles as children, we’ll be inclined to run in those circles as adults, even if we have opportunities to change our patterns.

My biggest takeaway is this statement by the researcher, Eszter Hargittai: “Everyone points to that wonderful New Yorker cartoon of the dog at the computer telling a canine friend by his side that ‘on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog’. In reality, however, it appears that online actions and interactions should not be viewed as independent of one’s offline identity.” (Emphasis mine).

Another excellent writeup on this report is found on Associated Content.