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Mobile-Messaging Apps Becoming More Popular With Young Adults, Survey Finds

September 1, 2015

[uwe umstatter/masterfile/corbis]
[uwe umstatter/masterfile/corbis]

Social media use has grown since 2012 but has plateaued since last year, and mobile-messaging apps are gaining in popularity among young adults, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. Overall, 85 percent of U.S. adults use the Internet and 67 percent use smartphones.

Facebook remains the most popular social media site, which 72 percent of online adults use (or 62 percent of all American adults). The proportion of online adults who use Pinterest and Instagram has doubled since Pew first started tracking social media platform adoption in 2012 — with 31 percent now using Pinterest and 28 percent using Instagram. But none of the social media platforms measured in the survey saw a statistically significant increase in usage between September 2014 and April 2015.

Thirty-six percent of smartphone owners report using messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik or iMessage; and 17 percent use apps that automatically delete sent messages, such as Snapchat and Wickr. The technology is especially popular with younger adults: Half of smartphone owners, ages 18 to 29, report using messaging apps, while 41 percent use apps that automatically delete sent messages.

Messaging apps are free, and when they’re connected to Wi-Fi, they don’t consume SMS or other data, unlike traditional text messages. Messaging apps offer a more private kind of social interaction than platforms such as Facebook or Twitter do. Some, like iMessage, maintain conversations even when a user switches between a tablet, computer or cellphone.

Greg Beaubien

Greg Beaubien is a frequent contributor to PRSA’s publications.

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