Facebook sucks up Americans' time

Nielsen finds we spend more time on the social network than any other destination on the Web--nearly a billion hours a month.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

The folks at Nielsen have confirmed what we've long suspected--we waste more time on Facebook than anywhere else. The famed media metrics and ratings company says in its latest social-media report that Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other destination on the Web--about 53 billion total minutes in the month of May 2011 alone.

Screen capture by Eric Mack/CNET

That's even more time than we spend streaming Pandora, which last quarter ate up 1.8 billion hours of listening time, an activity that requires much less interaction, or even being in the room. The Facebook tally is also just short of the amount of total hours spent by gamers playing on XBox Live, which at one point last year Microsoft estimated to be a total of a billion hours a month. That's a global number though, so take away all those overseas game junkies, and odds are that Facebook is still bigger here in the land of the free and the home of the Liked.

Another statistic in the report finds that Americans spend 23 percent of their time online on social networks and blogs, more than twice as much time as the No. 2 activity, online games, at 10 percent. The data reveals not only that we are a remarkably unproductive society online but also that Nielsen must not be spending much time on the medium it purports to be measuring. I can't think of another reason to combine social networks and blogs into a single category. Why not have another category for time spent on "IRC and HAM radios"?

In the "good news for Carol Bartz a little too late" category, Yahoo is a distant but still surprising No. 2 behind Facebook, beating out Google, AOL Media Network, MSN/Live/Bing, YouTube, and eBay, in that order.

Facebook also dominates the wireless scene, with a mobile audience four times the size of the No. 2 social network on this metric: Twitter.

Can't let it go... all the categories Nielsen deems bigger than "blogs." Screen capture by Eric Mack/CNET

While Nielsen clearly finds that Facebook currently dominates our online worlds, the report also highlights one up-and-comer. It finds Tumblr has tripled the size of its U.S. audience over the past year to become No. 8 on the list of top blogs and social networks and perhaps the only site that truly combines aspects of both categories in fairly equal measure. (I still want to know why Nielsen gave "cruise lines" and "travel info" their own categories, but not "blogs.")

While we in the United States are clearly wasting lots of time on Liking, Friending, and overzealous category combining, we can take heart that the Australians waste more time per person on social networks and blogs, at more than seven hours a month, according to Nielsen.

Then again, perhaps I shouldn't consider it wasted time since, in Nielsen's eyes, reading this blog is practically the same thing as logging on to Facebook. Even so, please refrain from any excessive "Poking" in the comments below.