Americans are Finding Positive Experience in Social Media


In today’s world, social media usage appears to run rampant at times. Aside from just keeping in touch with friends and family, social media has a plethora of other uses; but while more Americans are seeing benefits from their social media usage, they are also encountering some negative experiences.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,276 U.S. adults surveyed online between November 12 and 17, 2014. Full results of the study, including data tables, can be viewed here.

The good, the bad, and the offensive
More Americans are seeing tangible benefits from social media than in the past. Half of U.S. Adults (50%) have ever received a good suggestion for something to try, up 10 points from 2010 (40%). An increased number of Americans also cited that they made a connection regarding a job opportunity (21% today vs. 15% 2010) via social media, while a marginally higher percentage found a new apartment or house (11% today vs. 9% 2010).

Millennials are significantly more likely than all other generations to have had luck in any of these cases:

  • Received a good suggestion for something to try (66% vs. 56% Gen Xers, 37% Baby Boomers & 33% Matures)
  • Made a connection regarding a job opportunity (37% vs. 24% Gen Xers, 10% Baby Boomers & 6% Matures)
  • Found a new apartment or house (19% vs. 11% Gen Xers, 5% Baby Boomers & 2% Matures)

On the other hand, negative experiences as a result of being active on social media are not unheard of either. Half of social media users (51%) say they have been offended by posts, comments or pictures they’ve seen on social media, up 8 points from 2010 (43%).

  • Millennials and Gen Xers are both more likely than Matures to have experienced this (58% & 50% vs. 37%).

In addition, over one-quarter of social media users (27%) say unintended persons have viewed links they posted or comments they made.

Additionally, 8% say they have gotten into trouble with school or work because of pictures posted of them online and 7% have lost a potential job opportunity because of pictures or posts they’ve made online; these experiences are both more common among men than women.

  • Twelve percent of men say they have gotten into with school or work because of pictures posted of them online, compared with just 5% of women.
  • Similarly, 10% of men say they have lost a potential job opportunity because of pictures or posts they’ve made online, compared with just 3% of women.

Privacy confidence is strong – but slipping
Negative experiences aside, 71% of social media users agree that potentially bad experiences resulting from social media activity can be prevented through the use of privacy settings, with 25% strongly agreeing. This belief has dwindled some from 2010 when 78% agreed with this notion and 28% strongly agreed.

  • Belief in the preventive powers of privacy settings is highest among Millennials, with 78% agreeing that potentially negative experiences resulting from social media activity can be prevented through the use of privacy settings (compared with 68% of Gen Xers, 67% of Baby Boomers, & 66% of Matures).

While confidence that privacy settings selected on their accounts are functioning as they should remains high at 60%, it has dropped quite a bit from 2010, when 71% felt this way.

  • Millennials retain the most positive outlook on this point as well, compared with both Baby Boomers and Matures (67% vs. 56% & 50%).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between November 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,276 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #1, January 6, 2015
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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