Our new Digital 2022 Global Overview Report—published in partnership with Hootsuite and We Are Social—reveals a ton of impressive new users milestones. For TikTok. For Facebook and Instagram Reels. For Telegram.

However, the most important trends often lie beneath the surface of the headlines, so in this article, we’ll take you beyond the numbers, and explore what people are actually doing online.

Dive in to learn more about your potential reach with social media ads on various platforms, social media as a news source, and more.

Top 10 takeaways

This video offers a handy summary of this year’s essential headlines and trends.

The inflection point of social user growth

July 2022 essential digital headlines - an overview of the adoption and use of connected devices and services (stats re: the urbanization of the total population, unique mobile phone users, internet users, and active social media users)

Social media users grew by 227 million over the past year, reaching 4.70 billion by the start of July 2022. The global social media user base has increased by more than 5% over the past 12 months, with the latest global total now equivalent to 59% of the world’s total population.

Social media and internet user numbers all point to a deceleration in digital growth compared with the impressive increases that we saw during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

July 2022 Digital growth stats: changes in the use of connected devices and services over time)

However, current trends indicate that two-thirds of the world’s total population should be online by this time next year, and social media users should reach the equivalent of 60% of the global population not long afterwards.

As a result, it’s safe to assume that we’re now very close to—or perhaps even already at—an inflection point of digital growth, and we should expect to see growth curves continue to flatten out from here on.

But it’s important to stress that this deceleration is inevitable; with the majority of the world’s population now connected, it would be statistically impossible for user numbers to continue growing indefinitely at the rates we saw in 2020 and 2021.

Moreover, the fact that we’ve arrived at this inflection point proves that connected tech is now embedded in the lives of most people around the world.

Consequently, the key question is no longer whether our audiences are actually using these technologies, but what they’re using them for, and how we can take full advantage of the valuable—and constantly evolving—opportunities that these technologies present.

Social is a top news source

The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report’s more striking finding is that people are now 2.5x as likely to turn to social media for news as they are to turn to physical newspapers and magazines.

July 2022 stats: Media channels used for news (online channels, television, social media, physical print media, radio)

Women are especially likely to turn to social platforms for news, with almost six in 10 female respondents saying that they use social networks and messengers to access and consume news content.

At first glance, these findings appear to be quite different to the latest wave of research from GWI.

Just 34.8% of working-age internet users surveyed by GWI in Q1 2022 said that reading news stories is one of the “main reasons” why they use social media.

July 2022 stats: Social media as a source of news (country breakdown)

News is a driver of social use for people 55+

As might be expected, younger adults are more likely to turn to social media for news when compared with their parents’ generation.

Almost two-thirds of respondents aged 18 to 24 said that they use social media as a source of news, compared with less than half of respondents aged 55 and above.