Friday, 22 February 2013

The scale of the Facebook time sink

Nielsen has some figures on US usage of social media, looking in detail at July 2012. In that month, US consumers spent a little over 93bn minutes, or 1.5bn hours on Facebook, of which 1/3 was via a mobile device.

The US population aged 13 and over (Facebook's minimum) is roughly 252m, so this usage works out at 6.2 hours per month for every single American adult and teenager. The figure would of course be even higher for Facebook users in that group.

Another way to look at this is to compare to the working hours of the American labour force - 142m people in July. This includes part-timers and those working long hours, but to keep things simple, let's assume a 40 hour work week. This means the US economy has monthly working hours of 23bn, and monthly US Facebook usage is equivalent to 7% of this figure.

I am not suggesting that this 7% substitutes for working hours, though certainly some does. And some of it likely substitutes for study time. The sheer scale of Facebook usage means it must be substituting for a whole range of activities, be they productive or purely pleasurable.

Something to put on the balance sheet the next time you're being told about the (real) positive economic impacts of the internet.


  1. Very big numbers, although I suspect some of this time is likely to be incremental, not all substitutional, as people multitask facebooking with other sit back type activities e.g. watching TV or travel on public transport

  2. James -

    I completely agree. From memory, about 1/3 of Facebook usage is via mobile devices, which would be consistent with multitasking with TV or travel