A Global Comparison Of Millennials: Is Social Media Replacing Social Interaction?

It’s hard to believe that this year marked only the 10th anniversary of Twitter’s official launch. At the time, few could have predicted that Twitter and other social networks like it would eventually change our world’s landscape and become engrained into the culture of an entire demographic cohort.

Millennials have spent the bulk of their lives culturally connected to social media and it is often said that they choose social media over real life interaction — but is that really the case? Are Millennials actually opting for digital interaction over the real-life alternative?

Across the globe, nearly 68% of our respondents indicated that they had indeed activated at least one social media account.

To find out, we teamed up with our worldwide research partner, the IRIS Network, to speak to Millennials living in 23 countries around the world. Among other things, The 2015 IRIS Millennials study explored the global prevalence of social media, as well as its relationship with real-life social interaction. The infographic below summarizes just some of our findings.

Is Social Media Replacing Social Interaction?
Global

Across the globe, nearly 68% of our respondents indicated that they had indeed activated at least one social media account. Of those that had created an account, almost 77% are actively engaging with social media (at least once a day,) while 86% are still actively socializing in person (meeting with friends to socialize at least once a week.)

Regional

Interestingly, when we break those numbers down by world region we can see that the region with the highest prevalence of social media, Central and South America (79%) is also the region with the lowest incidence of active social media users.

Employment Status

When we break the numbers down by employment status, we can see that students tend to be significantly more social than other with both the highest number of respondents that are active on social media (80%) and socially in person (90%.)

Although it’s clear, based on the results of our study, that Millennials have embraced social media as a means of interacting with one another, there does not appear to be a negative correlation between social networking and real-life social interaction.

In fact, our data shows that, globally, regions with the highest incidences of real-life social interaction among Millennials also have the highest prevalence of social media (I have created at least one social media account). This would appear to run counter to the idea that the use of social media is somehow cannibalizing social interaction.

These results fall in line with our own social values analysis of Canadian Millennials. We have consistently seen that, when compared to all Canadians, Millennials are more likely to value Social Learning and Introspection & Empathy. Moreover, Millennials have shown a greater degree of Time Stress when compared to Gen Xers at the same age, as well as displaying a higher Adaptability to Complexity.

All of these value alignments combined tell the story of a demographic group that is simply more social in nature. As Millennials attempt to fit more social interaction into their already time-strapped lives, they are more likely to seek out new and innovative ways to socialize through technology. Rather than substituting one social interaction for another, Millennials are more likely to be seeking out platforms in addition to real-life interactions that allow them to stay connected and adaptable in a way that fits their lives.

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