Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A third of U.S. online time spent being social, playing games

We sure do spend a lot of time complaining about our privacy — or lack thereof — when it comes to social networking sites like Facebook, but a recent survey claims that Web surfers in the U.S. spend far more time being social on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace than doing any other single activity online, including e-mail.
So says a recent snapshot of U.S. online life by Nielsen, which finds that Americans spend an average of 22.7 percent of their time poring over social networking sites. That's a big jump from last year, when the figure was 15.8 percent.

Coming in second, according to Nielsen: playing online games, which accounted for a little over 10 percent of our time (up from 9.3 percent in June 2009).

Another online pastime that’s growing in popularity is watching Web-based video like YouTube and Hulu, which U.S. surfers are doing about 3.9 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest losers in the survey is our old friend e-mail. It accounted for only about 8.3 percent of our average online time — still good enough for third place behind social networking and online gaming, but a drop of 28 percent compared with 2009.

Also losing ground in the survey: online portals like Yahoo! (uh-oh), as well as instant messaging. Portals saw their share of U.S. online time fall to just 4.4 percent of the overall online pie — a decline of 19 percent from their share last year, when they claimed 5.5 percent of the pie. Instant messaging claimed 4 percent of our time, down 15 percent compared with last year.

Time spent searching and on "software manufacturer" sites (like Microsoft, most likely) held relatively steady at 3.5 and 3.3 percent, respectively.
The catchall "other" category (which includes a hodgepodge of about 74 other online activities) grabbed a collective 34.3 percent of the total.

While the utter dominance of social networking doesn’t come as much of a surprise (the raging debate about privacy notwithstanding), it’s still somewhat of an eye-popper to me that as a nation, we’re spending almost three times as much time on Facebook and Twitter as we are on e-mail — which was, after all, the original killer app.

Then again, given how easy (and, yes, fun) it is to write on a Facebook wall or tweet your thoughts to the world, the slow fade of e-mail (not to mention instant messaging) as we know it probably shouldn’t be that much of a shock.

Still, Nielsen cautions that social networks like Facebook and Twitter haven’t "pushed e-mail and instant messaging into obscurity yet."

And what’s with all the online gaming? I’m pointing the finger of blame at social games like FarmVille, the perennial time-waster and scourge of Facebook walls everywhere. (All right, I admit: I’ve never played FarmVille. For now, I’m stubbornly opposed. But if you want to set me straight in the comments, feel free.)

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