A funny thing that’s developed in the last few years is a shared interest in the latest trends by teens and adults. At least, we’re made to think it’s a tad odd, and surely greasy-faced adolescents are horrified at the thought of getting an add request from their parents on MySpace.

But at the same time, when it comes to things as explosive and powerful as social networking, is a shared interest really all that strange? After all, adults are people too, and as Pew Internet & American Life Project reports, their motives for joining a network are a little more colorful than one might think.

Some Stats for Thought

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the number of adults on social networks has quadrupled since 2005: from a then measly 8% to today’s 35%. But because adults make up a much larger portion of the population than teens do, their 35% still outnumbers the 65% of registered youngsters.

However, at the core of social networking shenanigans, it’s still a kid’s game. Although people of all ages are registered for social networks, it’s the younger generations that actually make use of them:

  • 75% of online adults 18-24 have a profile on a social network site
  • 57% of online adults 25-34 have a profile on a social network site
  • 30% of online adults 35-44 have a profile on a social network site
  • 19% of online adults 45-54 have one
  • 10% of online adults 55-64 have one
  • 7% of online adults 65+ have a profile 

It’s Mostly Fun and Games for These Big Kids

The general assumption is that the majority of adults registered for social networking sites have their careers in mind. Sites like LinkedIn, which connects professionals from around the world, are built specifically for this motive. Interestingly enough, however, a personal use of social networking seems to be more prevalent than anything else.

So personal in fact, that a whole 60% of adults are setting their privacy levels to restrict anyone but friends from viewing their information. With the increasing number of employers who "check up" on their applicants and employees via these networks, the fact that more than half of adults keep their profiles private comes as no surprise. Additionally, it speaks volumes to exactly how separate adults are choosing to keep their social networking life from their professional life. Not only through the use of restrictions, but also based on which network they choose. According to Pew:

  • 50% of adult social networkers have a profile on MySpace
  • 22% have a profile on Facebook
  • 6% have a profile on LinkedIn

Pew also reports that the bulk of interviewees (89%) say the purpose behind their social networking is to keep in contact with their friends, while “making business contacts” and “promoting themselves and or their work” fell to the least common reasons for signing up. With less than a third of adults registered for social networks using them for professional reasons, we wonder where sites like LinkedIn will find themselves in the near future.

MySpace is Leading the Social War

Though Facebook’s zillions of application gained them a considerable amount of attention last year, MySpace still reigns supreme. Half of adult social network users 18 and older have a profile on MySpace while only 22% have an account with Facebook.

With a median age of 27 years old, MySpace users are more likely to be women, Hispanic or Black, to have a high school education or some college experience. The median age of Facebook is 26 and users are more likely to be men and to have a college degree. Meanwhile, the median age of LinkedIn is 40 and users are more likely to be male, White and to have a college degree.

LinkedIn puts Up a Good Fight

In the face of these statistics and numbers, LinkedIn has attempted to up its game in retaliation. Just last year they added LinkedIn Applications in hopes to mirror some of the appealing qualities of networks like Facebook and MySpace. Not wanting to leave the suits out in the cold, however, they’ve also added helpful features like the events section for the business-minded. Can sites geared toward a professional rather than a personal goal find a balance that will keep them afloat? As LinkedIn's spankin' new CEO steps up to the plate, perhaps we'll soon find out.