More Time Than Ever Spent on Facebook, Watching TV & Video

By Nick Edwards on Nov 10 2011 at 8:00 AM

With the click of a button, Internet users can share everything from the day’s most pressing news to the day’s cutest cat video.

As a tool, social media has enabled people to connect with others across the globe, disseminating information on networks such as Facebook and Twitter. People share for a variety of reasons, from staying in touch to supporting causes that excite them. But how are they sharing? How are they watching? And what might today’s trends tell us about the future of social TV? We look at the changing face of social media, where people spend their time and how they share.

User demographics

Once upon a time, social media was used exclusively by tech-savvy kids. However, according to Mary Madden, senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, recent user statistics suggest a graying of social networks. While social-networking use for those under 30 has increased marginally in 2011 (from 60 percent to 61 percent), the biggest boom is with the baby-boomer generation. Among users ages 50 to 64, 51 percent are on social networks, and use has leaped from 20 percent to 32 percent—a 60 percent increase within a year. 

Social media trends

On average, Americans spend 5.2 hours a month on social networking sites, according to according to comScore. They're sharing primarily by computers (97 percent of social media users access the sites via PC), followed by mobile phones (37 percent), gaming consoles (3 percent), iPads (3 percent), among other devices. Meanwhile, social-networking apps are now the third most-downloaded category for smartphones, trailing games and weather, according to Nielsen.

Americans now spend more time on Facebook than any other site, according to Nielsen's Q3 state of the media report. Just how much time? Collectively, they spend 52,457,258 minutes on Facebook per month. That’s a little more than a century.

It’s not just the amount of time that users spend on social media that’s noteworthy. Equally impressive is the amount of content shared among connections; the numbers are truly mind boggling. Here's a quick look at some of the networks, as well as their users and general engagement trends. 

Facebook

  • Number of users: more than 750 million active users
  • Number of items shared: more than 30 billion pieces of content shared per month
  • YouTube videos shared: 150 years worth of videos watched a day
  • Time spent: 6.3 hours per person per month

Twitter

  • Number of users: more than 100 million active users
  • Number of items shared: 230 million tweets a day (about 6.9 billion tweets a month)
  • YouTube videos shared: 400 tweets to YouTube videos per minute (576,000 per day)
  • Time spent: 2.2 hours per person per month

YouTube

  • Number of users: 108 million unique visitors per month
  • Number of videos viewed: 8.9 billion videos viewed per month
  • Time spent: 2.6 hours per person per month

Sources: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, comScore, Experian, Nielsen

Online video

When it comes to watching online video, a September 2011 report by Specific Media found Internet users were more engaged with video content, with about half of respondents in Specific Media's study reporting they discussed the content they viewed and the same percentage saying they sought more information on the topic. About a quarter of online-video viewers say they shared, forwarded and commented on video content. 

Together, social media and video take up a growing portion of America’s collective attention. Social media has grown to be the Web’s No. 1 activity, surpassing both email and online porn, averaging 5.2 hours per user per month. Internet users on average spend 18.5 hours on online video. Combine that with the 159 hours spent in front of the television, and it becomes apparent the Internet, along with TV and video, dominates free time. 

To put this in perspective, consider the following (admittedly rough) back-of-the-envelope math: If the typical American’s day is broken up into thirds (sleep, work and free time), then roughly three-quarters of free time, or about 6 hours, is spent being social online and watching TV and video. 

Our view? We think sharing and watching video content will continue to converge to the point where social media and “watching TV” in many ways become one and the same.

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