How Do Your Social Media Habits Measure Up?
Head to a popular tourist location in your city, or spend some time riding public transportation, and it won't take long for you to come to the conclusion that social media has taken over our lives.
In some respects, it's quite incredible to think how quickly this happened. The Pew Research Center, which collects a wide range of data about society, started tracking social media use in the U.S. back in 2005, when just 5 percent of the population was on a social media site.
Fast forward 14 years and we have a much different story. Now, 69 percent of the U.S. population uses social media.
But exactly how much social media do we use? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to say "a lot," but we wanted to get a bit more specific.
How Much Time Do We Spend on Social Media?
The first question everyone wants to know when looking into social media habits is how much time we spend on social media.
Overall, there are a lot of different ways to answer this question, but they all point to one answer: a lot.
But we can get more specific. According to a study by Social Media Today:
These numbers seem like a lot. But they are sometimes hard to put into context. Of course, five years on social media seems extreme, but just how extreme is it?
Social Media Today concluded their study by calculating some other things we could do in that amount of time, such as:
Obviously, few of us would ever consider using this time for these activities, but these stats help provide perspective as to how much time we spend using social media.
Things Are Different Amongst Teens
As one might suspect, social media use differs significantly in younger populations. Not only do they use it more, but they tend to use different platforms than adults.
Here are some stats from Pew:
85 percent of teens use YouTube, with 32 percent saying they use it most often.
72 percent say they use Instagram, with 15 percent reporting it's what they use most frequently.
69 percent use SnapChat, and 35 percent report it's what they use most.
51 percent use Facebook, but surprisingly, just 10 percent have listed it as their preferred platform.
Additionally, teens spend more time on social media than most other age brackets. For example, they spend an average of nine hours per day consuming media online, with 45 percent of teens saying their online use is almost constant.
However, what's interesting is that most teens recognize they've gone too far and that they spend too much time in front of screens using social media. We will have to wait and see, though, if this sentiment translates into decreased usage rates amongst young people.
How Frequently Do We Use Social Media?
Measuring the total amount of time we spend on social media is interesting, but to get a better understanding of the numbers, it's important to look at some of the more granular details.
For example, how frequently do we use social media? Do we neglect it for days and then binge to catch up? Or are we on the platforms more often?
It's different for each of us, but here are some of the averages, according to a survey conducted by Pew:
What Does This Mean?
Interestingly, YouTube came in first when measuring how much time people spend on YouTube per day, but it came in last when looking at how frequently we use it.
This makes sense given the nature of YouTube, which is a mostly-passive, video-based platform. We may log on less frequently, but when we do, it's to watch longer videos.
Or, as has happened to all of us, we get sucked into the rabbit hole, and before we know it several hours have disappeared while we were on YouTube.
What Do We Use Social Media For?
Since we're spending so much time on social media, a fair question to ask is what are we doing while we're on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
Personal experience tells us most of our time is spent looking at funny pictures and videos of cats, dogs, and any other animal we can think of. But is that really what we're doing with all this time?
Let's take a look. These stats provided by We Are Social Media (WeRSM).
As you can see, social media provides us with many different things, ranging from news and information to entertainment and relationships.
This might help explain why social media use has become so ubiquitous in our society, and why we spend so much of our time on these various sites.
Social Media and the News
One of the hot topics when studying social media is its role in the news. In the U.S., there have been countless reports of foreign entities using social media to manipulate people and their opinions.
But this only works if people are actually going to social media for their news. If they are going elsewhere, then these attempts shouldn't have much of an effect.
We know from the Pew study mentioned earlier that 41 percent of people use social media to stay updated on the news and current events, but is there more to the story?
To help us answer this, Reuters did a study on social media and the news, and they found that:
Two-thirds of Americans get at least "some of their news" from social media.
Around 67 percent of Americans somewhat rely on social media platforms for the news, which is up from just 62 percent in 2016.
55 percent of adults over the age of 50 consume news from social media, which is up from 45 percent in 2016.
78 percent of people under 50 said they consume news on social media.
45 percent of adults say they get their news from Facebook, as compared to YouTube, which is used for news only by 18 percent of people, and Twitter, which is used by 11 percent of U.S. adults.
69 percent of those without a college degree get their news from social media, which is up 9 points from 2016. On the contrary, the percentage of people who have a college degree, and who use social media for news, declined from 68 percent in 2017 to 63 percent.
74 percent of the adults who use Twitter use it for news, which is up from 59 percent in 2016.
However, while these numbers suggest that social media is becoming a more and more popular news source, it is still not the most popular.
Television still dominates as the primary news source for most Americans, particularly adults over the age of 50. Next is news websites, then radio, and then social media. However, print newspapers come in last on the list.
The landscape of news is changing, and it's certainly drifting towards social media.
But considering that just 24 percent of those who get their news from social media feel the sites do a good job at helping them separate fact from fiction, we should be wary of saying that the age of social media news has officially arrived.
Social Media Use Around the World
Most of the statistics we've looked at focus on the United States, and if you're from there, this should give you a good idea as to how well your habits measure up to those of the people around you.
However, we now live in a globalized, digital world. Social media and the internet have reached nearly every corner of the Earth, and to really get an idea as to how well your habits stack up, we should be taking a global perspective.
Consider the follow stats about social media usage around the world:
- The average person spends 135 minutes per day on social media networking sites.
- This number has increased year over year since people began collecting data, and this growth has been happening quickly. In 2012, people around the world were using social media for just 90 minutes per day.
Social Media Use By Continent
You may be thinking that the 116 minutes per day American spend on social media are a lot. But as compared to other parts of the world, North Americans spend less time on social media than most.
To be more specific, take a look at this map created using stats from Digital Information Worldwide:
Social Media Use By Country
People in the U.S. use a lot of social media, but they are not the world leaders. In a study conducted by Pew on the percentage of people using social media, the U.S. (69 percent) ranks 3rd behind Jordan (75 percent) and Lebanon (72 percent) for overall social media penetration.
Here are a few more stats from the study to help provide perspective:
Canada, Australia and South Korea are tied with the use at 69 percent.
60 percent of people in China use social media despite strict censoring laws from the government (Facebook is not allowed to operate in China, for example)
India and Tanzania were last on the list with just 20 percent penetration.
Germany and Japan are last in terms of the "developed" economies. Just 40 and 39 percent of people report using social media, respectively.
Facebook Dominates the Global Landscape
As we might expect, Facebook is still the most widely-used social media platform around the world. However, this isn't the case in all countries.
A study conducted by VINCOS looked at traffic numbers for social media sites in 167 countries around the world. It confirmed that Facebook is the dominant force in the market, but after that, things get a bit less clear. Here are the numbers.
Facebook was the most popular social media site in 91 percent of the 167 countries studied.
Notable exceptions are: China, which primarily uses a site known as Qzone, Russia, which uses the platform V Kontakte, and Iran, which uses Instagram more than Facebook (although Instagram is part of Facebook).
In the U.S and parts of Europe, Twitter is the second-ranked platform, but Instagram and Reddit also are used widely around the world after Facebook.
Is Social Media Use Peaking?
Social media use has been growing, but basic logic tells us that it can't keep doing so. There should be a limit, and it's possible we are reaching that limit.
The best evidence for this idea is that in the second quarter of 2018, Facebook added no new users to its core platform in the United States, it lost one million users in Europe, and it added only 22 million new users around the world, which is the lowest amount since this stat started being tracked in 2011.
However, the lack of growth from other social media platforms, such as Twitter, reveal that Facebook may be tightening its grip on the market.
In other words, there are fewer users overall, meaning there is less potential for new networks, but use is growing.
Part of the reason for this has been Facebook's strategic acquisition of other social sites, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, which together have around 2.5 billion monthly users worldwide.
How Much is Too Much Social Media?
Part of our purpose in writing up this report was to try and help you measure your social media use against the norm. Hopefully, the numbers we've provided will help you see just that.
However, one question we should probably be asking is: what's the limit?
The numbers amongst teenagers are astounding, and most would agree that spending all day on social media is too much. Buy beyond this general consensus, there's little evidence to prove how much really is too much.
According to an informal poll conducted by the BBC, most people believe that two to three hours per day is too much, suggesting our average use is in fact excessive.
But this doesn't really tell us much, and it's likely the answer to this question is far more qualitative than we may want it to be.
For example, a study from the University of Singapore, which was released in 2012, found that social media use starts to become problematic when it's used to try and relieve stress, loneliness and depression. Yet other studies have indicated that moderate social media use has no harmful effects and may actually be good for us since we live in a connected world.
Identifying Excessive Use
As a result, to determine if you're using social media too much, it's best to look at the role social media plays in your life. To help you, Psychology Today has come up with some signs of excessive social media use, which are:
Withdrawing from face to face social interactions in favor of using the internet.
Consistent anxiety or stress about normal routines.
Excessive "phubbing," which means ignoring people around you in favor of looking at your phone.
The emergence of conflicts in personal relationships as a result of phone use.
Not being able to do anything without your phone, such as use the bathroom or spend time outside.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then it might be time to reconsider your use habits. Otherwise, there's no real answer to the question, "how much is too much?" Like everything, the best answer is most likely: everything in moderation.
Social media has become an integral part of our lives. We spend a good deal of time using it, and our use has an impact on how we live life. This may change sometime in the future, but most indications are that social media is here to stay. It's our responsibility to identify the role it's going to play, or not, in our own lives.