More young Americans would struggle parting with social media than TV

There are other ways to occupy one’s time.
There are other ways to occupy one’s time.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
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What technology could you not live without?

TV used to be the most indispensable tech in American homes. Today, more young US adults, ages 18-29, say they’d have a “very hard” time giving up social media than TV, Pew Research Center found in a January survey. The age group was also more than three times as likely to say they’d have a “very hard” time parting with the internet or their cellphones than TV.

Young Americans may have an easier time contemplating giving up TV than other kinds of technology because programming has moved beyond what we traditionally think of as TV. It’s as easy to watch your favorite show on a smartphone as on a TV set. Google’s YouTube blurs the line between social media and TV. Other social networks like Facebook and Twitter have TV-like video, too. And the number of cord-cutters, who have ditched traditional TV services, and cord-nevers, who never had them to begin with, are on the rise.

Still, TV maintains its hold on Americans overall. More US adults said they’d struggle to part with TV than social media. But the share of those who’d find it “very hard” to give TV up has dwindled from 44% in 2006 to less than a third of Americans today. More than half of US adults, 55%, said they’d find it at least somewhat hard to give up TV in the 2018 survey.

Nielsen estimates that 120 million US homes had TVs in 2017, reaching about 96.5% of the population. Other research shows that the number of TV sets in US homes is shrinking, because of viewing on smartphones, tablets, and other screens. Meanwhile, about 69% of the US population uses social media, Pew found in earlier research.