Social Networking More Popular Than Porn (and People Fear Elbows)

File this one under stunning stats. Bill Tancer, author of Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters, and GM of the web tracking company, Hitwise, has analyzed information from more than 10 million web users and determined that social networking is more popular than porn.

Yep. You read that right. More popular than porn.

Reuters reports that Tancer has long used the web to make conclusions about how society and people are changing. Some of his findings are just plain odd, like, in addition to social intimacy and rejection, people’s top fears include elbows, belly button lint and ceiling fans. (Elbows?)

He also states there are annual spikes in searches for anti-depression drugs around Thanksgiving in the United States. (Not exactly earth-shattering. People have been talking about depression during the holidays ever since I can remember. I recall being terribly confused by that as little girl because to me the holidays meant lots of good food, time off from school, and presents!)

Tancer said one of the major shifts in Internet use in the past decade had been the fall off in interest in pornography or adult entertainment sites. He said surfing for porn had dropped to about 10 percent of searches from 20 percent a decade ago, and the hottest Internet searches now are for social networking sites.

“As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased,” said Tancer, indicating that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn. “My theory is that young users spend so much time on social networks that they don’t have time to look at adult sites.”

Tancer said the change in communication patterns was one of the most noticeable shifts in society in the past five years, a key point for marketers seeking to learn about their audiences. For more of the results from his study, check out this Reuters/MSNBC piece.

Of course, some might say MySpace has pretty much become one big porn community. So, it’s not as if interests aren’t converging here. But, nonetheless, this is a fascinating glimpse into the power of social media with today’s web audiences.

If you, as a marketer and PR professional, are having trouble getting your clients into the mix, perhaps studies like this will help to demonstrate the incredible reach and breadth of these sites. Now, I’d better go, my elbow is getting a little to close to my face and it’s freaking me out.

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