Dec. 3, 2012 at 4:38 PM ET
The United States spent 121 billion minutes on social media sites in July 2012 alone, according to Nielsen's annual Social Media report. That's 388 minutes — or 6-1/2 hours — per person (if every person in the U.S. used social media). All together, that's 230,060 years we spent staring into the glaring screen of so-called sharing, instead of going outside and playing with our friends, like we're supposed to do in July!
Hearing the hard numbers on all that valuable time seemingly wasted, you may find your fist shaking impotently in the air, while shouting "ZUCKERBERG!!!!" But take a deep breath. We didn't spend all our social media time on Facebook, Nielsen explains, Just most of it.
According to the consumer measurement company's report, tellingly subtitled "Social Media Comes of Age," Facebook indeed, several times over, is the most popular social network in the U.S., with 152.2 million visitors on personal computers, 78.4 million users via mobile apps, and 74.3 million visitors via the mobile Web. That's no big surprise. The Nielsen study, which surveyed 1,998 social media users ages 18 and older between July 19 and Aug. 8, 2012, had some some new information too.
Pinterest, for example, is one of the "breakout stars in social media for 2012, boasting the largest year-over-year increase in both unique audience and time spent of any social network across PC, mobile web and apps," according to Nielsen. At sixth place (behind Blogger, Twitter, WordPress and LinkedIn respectively), the image-sharing network saw more than a 1,000 percent traffic increase since Nielsen's 2011 report.
Overall, we here in the U.S. spend roughly 20 percent of our time on personal computers liking, tweeting, pinning, whatever it is we do on Tumblr and other stuff on social media, and 30 percent of our time on our mobile devices doing the same.
We've got a lot more social media options, and a lot more ways to engage, from the all-absorbing time sinkhole that is Facebook, to the fun GIFs and pretty pictures that are Tumblr and Pinterest. What's more, most of the social media sites work together, and they're all accessible via those smartphones we're increasingly obsessed with. Personal computers are the main way we interact online, but the time we spent with social media and apps via cellphone increased 63 percent in 2012, Nielsen reports.
As 2012 comes to an end, and these hard numbers slap you in the face, it's understandable if you feel some regret about that collective 230,060 years spent goofing around or whatever it is you do on social media. But let's be honest. If not for Facebook and its ilk, it's not like you'd be discovering the Higgs boson particle. You'd probably be watching "Family Matters" reruns ... and you know it.