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What Are Younger Americans Doing on Facebook?

As Facebook marks its 10th anniversary tomorrow, founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says the company is looking forward to another decade of “helping connect the rest of the world.”  The site has already done a pretty thorough job of connecting facebook logoAmericans, with 45 percent reporting in 2012 that they used Facebook at least a few times a week. Still, does the site provide much more than a place to post pictures of your friends, pets or kids?

Well, for some, Facebook has emerged during the past decade as a medium for political engagement, though its influence is far from ubiquitous. Ahead of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, PRRI’s Millennial Values Election Survey found that 16 percent of college-age Millennials (ages 18 to 25) reported hearing or seeing campaign commercials on social media. And following the 2012 election, PRRI’s American Values Survey found that just 14 percent of Americans overall said things they’d seen or read on Facebook were very or somewhat important in helping to make up their minds about who to support.

If the political engagement occurring on Facebook is not quite robust, religious involvement on the social networking site is even more anemic, particularly among young people. Only half of young adults (ages 18 to 29) report that they even post their religious identity on their profile page. Just 1-in-10 (10 percent) of young adults report following a religious or spiritual leader on Twitter or Facebook, while 13 percent say they have joined a religious or spiritual group on Facebook.

Young people aren’t the only ones hesitant to mix religion with social media. Among Americans overall who attend religious services regularly, only about 1-in-5 (17 percent) say their church or place of worship encourages them to use social media to post photos or share information with others. And roughly 3-in-10 (29 percent) of Americans overall say their church or place of worship has an active Facebook page or website where people interact.

These low numbers may not be due to grow any time soon, as reports show younger Americans are leaving Facebook for other social networking tools such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

Have you stuck with Facebook? If so, has it influenced the way you think about politics, or how you engage with religious communities? Be sure to let us know in the comments.