If you’re like the average person, you’ll spend more than five years of your life on social media -- five years and four months, to be exact. That breaks down to nearly two hours (116 minutes) a day spent on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter -- not to mention some of the less popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and Musical.ly, an app popular with teens.
Andrea Hardalo, social media editor at Entrepreneur.com, provides insight into her own social media behavior. “For my personal life, I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat,” she says. “Separate from work, I'd say I spend about 28 hours on social media. That adds up to four hours a day (I need a life).”
While Hardalo may spend approximately twice as much time as the average adult on social media, social media is her profession. What’s the excuse for the rest of us?
The realization of how much the average person actually spends on social media comes into sharper focus when comparing the figure (five years and four months) to the one year and three months we will spend over a lifetime socializing with friends and family in real life. (Cringe.)
When it comes to extreme averages, teenagers take the prize. Their daily average time spent on social media is nine hours a day. That’s longer than most people spend sleeping or in school. That figure reflects the “sheer volume of media technology that kids are exposed to on a daily basis,” James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, told CNN.
While teens may represent an extreme in social media behavior, the number of adults using social media and the average time spent doing so is definitely trending upward. In 2005, only 5 percent of Americans were using Facebook. By 2016, the figure jumped to 68 percent. The climb is in part due to social media giants improving their functionalities -- Facebook owns Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, and the three apps have functionalities that make it easier to cross-use and, at times, cross-post. Social media companies are better able to compete for user time and engagement, and we’re lapping it up. Also, there’s way more options to choose from.
The confluence of the switch to mobile and a heightened interest in news and politics has undoubtedly put a thumb on the scale as well. Eighty-five percent of adults in the U.S. get their news off mobile devices compared to 54 percent in 2013, according to a March 2017 survey. A robust 67 percent of Americans get some of their news on social media, up 5 percent since the presidential primaries in early 2016.
“I get all my news on Twitter, which I feel like some people are ashamed to say, but I've always loved their trends and quickness,” Hardalo says. “Some people tweet out the news before their stories are even written, so I like that as well.”
Among millennials, 49 percent report that Twitter and Facebook have been their go-to sources for news and politics -- compared to 31 percent among those 35 and older -- although that figure is growing in both cohorts.
As social media’s capacities and uses evolve, our habits around it will inevitably change. To help gauge where your social media habits stand against today’s average person, click through the next five slides for some fun and enlightening facts about social media habits.
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