Study: You'll wolf down 34GB of data today

Researchers at UC San Diego say Americans have a voracious, and growing, appetite for information. And yes, you still watch a lot of TV.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Got a case of information overload? You're not alone.

A study released Wednesday from the University of California, San Diego, reports that the average American consumes a whopping 34GB of data and 100,000 words of information per day.

Over the course of 2008, Americans as a group gobbled up 3.6 zettabytes of data. (In case you missed the definition of "zettabyte" in your daily data binging, that's a million million gigabytes.) For all you visual learners out there, the researchers helpfully point out that 3.6 zettabytes is equal to the "information in thick paperback novels stacked seven feet high over the entire United States, including Alaska."

Between 1980 and 2008, the number of bytes consumed by Americans increased 350 percent. The average annual growth rate was calculated at 5.4 percent.

Internet as a source of information
Here's how TV and the Internet stack up in the "How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers." University of California, San Diego

Dubbed the How Much Information? project, the study measured data consumption both at home and away from home. It includes several information sources, "including going to the movies, listening to the radio, talking on the cell phone, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and reading the newspaper."

Besides bytes and words, the study also noted the number of hours spent consuming information.

In terms of time, traditional media still has a strong hold on the U.S. The study reported that "a large chunk of the average American's day is spent watching television." On average, 41 percent of an American's day is given over to watching television shows, viewing recorded TV, or watching DVDs.

Noncomputer sources, the study says, account for more than three-quarters of U.S. households' information time.

But if bytes are the standard by which American days are judged, it's the video game that takes the top prize. Researchers found that the average American consumes 18.5GB of gaming data per day, representing 67 percent of all bytes they consume daily.

"Games are almost universal, but most of the gaming bytes come from graphically intensive games on high-powered computers and consoles, which have the equivalent of special-purpose supercomputers from five years ago," report author Roger Bohn, director of the Global Information Industry Center at UC San Diego's School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, said in a statement. "Games today generate their bytes inside the home, rather than having to transmit them over cables into the house, but gaming is increasingly moving online."

The study found that 16 percent of daily information consumption comes from the Internet. A staggering 79 percent of all American two-way communications is done through the Internet.

If you want to see what else UC San Diego found in its study, click here.