Helen Popkin
updated 8/6/2010 3:05:32 PM ET 2010-08-06T19:05:32

It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say Facebook is sucking up your life. But it could very well be sucking up the time you spend on the Internet. According to its 2010 "What Americans Do Online" report released yesterday, Nielsen found that Americans spend 22.7 percent of Internet time on social networks. That's up 43 percent from last year.

Social networking continues to displace other Internet activities, topping the troika of most popular pursuits. "Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the Web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities — social networking, playing games (10.2 percent), and e-mailing (8.3 percent), leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie," Nielsen analyst Dave Martin said in a statement.

Social networks, mind you, include MySpace, Twitter, etc., but no surprise here — Facebook accounts for 85 percent of the time spent on social networks. (No wonder Facebook is expanding its Oregon data center by 50 percent!) Since games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars are played on Facebook, Martin said that gaming and social media overlap. Because of that, games may actually account for more than 10.2 percent of online time.

Online gaming is so hot, it overtook personal e-mail to become the second most popular Internet activity. While e-mail still figures into the top three, it took a hit from 2009 when it accounted for 11.5 percent of Internet activity on personal computers.

There's also the Facebook factor to consider where e-mail is concerned. Americans of all ages continue to adopt social networking, but those 50 and older are joining at double the rate of the under-18 crowd. E-mailing your former high school friends and/or the grandkids through Facebook may be more efficient than logging on to a dedicated e-mail account — especially since everybody's hanging out on Facebook anyway.

Life on the mobile Web
On our cell phones, e-mail is still king. True, social networking activity doubled over the last year, and consists of 28 percent of U.S. time spent on the mobile Web. But e-mail activity on mobile devices grew too, and accounts for 41.6 percent of time spent on mobile devices.

Portals (Yahoo, etc.) may be losing ground as social networking expands, but still make up the second most popular mobile activity at 11.6 percent share of time.

We're also listening to more music and watching more videos on our mobile devices. Both areas of entertainment saw a 20 percent growth over the last year, perhaps in connection to an increase in both content and availability. Whatever the reason, this increase is to the detriment of both news/current events and sports destinations, which both lost more than 20 percent of mobile time.

As Nielsen points out, the way we use our personal computers continues to differ from what we do with our mobile devices. Some industry watchers predict that we'll come to use both devices in the same way — but that could be awhile.

"While convergence will continue," Martin said, "the unique characteristics of computers and mobiles, both in their features and when and where they are used mean that mobile Internet behavior mirroring its PC counterpart is still some way off."

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