Pew Research: Here Are Some of the Top Tech-Related Trends That Shaped the Decade


NEW YORK—The tech landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, both in the U.S. and around the world. There have been notable increases in the use of social media and online platforms (including YouTube and Facebook) and technologies (like the internet, cellphones and smartphones), in some cases leading to near-saturation levels of use among major segments of the population. But digital tech also faced significant backlash in the 2010s.

Pew Research Center recently featured 10 of the top-tech related changes that the organization has studied over the past decade. Here’s their number one trend: Social media sites have emerged as a go-to platform for connecting with others, finding news and engaging politically.

When the Center first asked U.S. adults if they ever used a social media site in 2005, just 5 percent said they did. Today, the share is 72 percent, according to a survey in early 2019.

Social media has also taken hold around the world. The Center’s spring 2017 global survey—conducted in 17 advanced and 19 emerging economies—found that a median of 53 percent of adults across emerging and developing countries use social media.

In the U.S. and around the world, younger adults are the most likely age group to use social media. For example, 9 in 10 Americans ages 18 to 29 report ever using a social media site, compared with 40 percent of those ages 65 and older.

Another of the decade’s most significant trends, according to Pew: Smartphones have altered the way many Americans go online. One of the biggest digital trends of the decade has been the steady rise of mobile connectivity. Smartphone adoption has more than doubled since the Center began surveying on this topic in 2011.

Then, 35 percent of U.S. adults reported owning a smartphone of some kind, a share that has risen to 81 percent today.

Teens have also become much more likely to use smartphones: More than nine-in-ten (95 percent) teens ages 13 to 17 report owning or having access to a smartphone, according to a 2018 survey.

Adults are increasingly likely to name their smartphone as the primary way of going online. Today, 27 percent of U.S. adults say they mostly use a smartphone to access the internet, up from 19 percent in 2013.

The 2010s, meanwhile, were also the decade that saw the advent of tablet computers, which are now used by around half (52 percent) of U.S. adults.

Read the full report here to see Pew's complete story on the Top 10 Tech-Related Trends of the past decade.