How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media?
One of the biggest cultural changes in the last decade or so has been our growing use of social media. From the launch of the first social media site (the little known Six Degrees) in 1997 to the behemoths like Facebook of today, our social media usage has grown exponentially. Just how much social media are we using? Should we be worried about it? We’re taking a look at social media use, the stats, and the concerns…
What Exactly Is Social Media?
Before we get into the numbers, it might be helpful to have a definition of what exactly social media is. Social media is any website or app that allows users to create and share content and to socially network. So basically, that’s anything where you can post and communicate with people. Social media has been around for a while now since 1997 at least. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it really started to take off, with the launch of the now-defunct MySpace.
The Top Social Media Apps
Which sites and apps are we talking about here? Well, according to the latest survey from GlobalWebIndex, the biggest social media apps for 2019 are:
- Facebook (with 2.38 billion users)
- YouTube (with 1.3 billion users)
- Facebook Messenger (with 1.3 billion users)
- WhatsApp (with 1.5 billion users)
- Instagram (with 1 billion users)
- Twitter (with 321 million users)
- LinkedIn (with 260 million users)
- Skype (with 300 million users)
- Snapchat (with 186 million users)
- Pinterest (with 265 million users)
Note that the list isn’t ranked by the number of users alone. Time spent online, the number of active users (as opposed to registered users), and site activity were also used to rank the sites.
Social Media Use in the UK
The above list is a global ranking, but it doesn’t look much different in the UK alone. Facebook is still the mobile giant and the top-ranked UK social media site. When it comes to UK based social media statistics, then here are the important numbers:
- There are 45 million social media users in the UK, meaning that 67% of the population use social media
- 39 million of these users use social media on their mobile devices
- 96% of these 45 million users have accessed social media within the last month
- 77% of users have actively posted or in some way contributed to social media in the last month
- The average UK users spend 110 minutes (one hour and 50 minutes) on social media per day
- Only 13% of users use social media for work purposes
How Much Time Do We Spend By Site?
Getting a break down of how much time each user spends on each social media site a day was pretty difficult. There’s a lot of research out there, and not all studies agree with each other. Mostly this is down to the fact that this research is based on surveys where users self-report, and most people underestimate the time they spend on each site. However, the most reliable numbers we’ve found are:
- Facebook: A study from emarketer suggests that the average person spends 43 minutes per day on Facebook. That’s down from 58 minutes per day in 2018.
- YouTube: Research from VAB from 2017 (the most recently available data) says that YouTube users spend 1163 minutes per month on the app, so that’s about 38 minutes per day.
- Facebook Messenger: We were unable to find any clear numbers about the amount of time spent on Messenger per day. However, since this is a messaging app (as opposed to the more collaborative Facebook app), it’s unlikely that most people spend a huge amount of time in Messenger. In the US the average user is on Messenger for about 5 minutes per day.
- WhatsApp: A study from Statista done in 2016 (the most recent numbers we could find) showed that the average user spent 28.4 minutes per day on WhatsApp.
- Instagram: SocialPilot estimates that the average daily use for Instagram posters is just 15 per day.
- Twitter: The same SocialPilot survey suggests that the average Twitter user is only on the platform for 2.7 minutes a day.
- LinkedIn: The average LinkedIn user spends around 17 minutes per day on the site.
- Skype: If you’re on Skype, you’re probably only using it for around 16 minutes per day.
- Snapchat: Research from early 2018 (the latest available) suggests that Snapchat users spend about 5 minutes per day on the app.
- Pinterest: The average Pinterest user is online for about 2 minutes per day.
If you’re on all these social media platforms and you’re an average user, that all adds up to 218 minutes of social media user per day, or over three and a half hours!
Who Are These People?
Who are all these people on social media? Well, thanks to this research, we can give you a break down on the demographics of the users of the top UK sites. Note that these demographics are mostly for over 18s only, we’ll get to the younger crowd in a second!
- Facebook: UK Facebook users are predominantly female (84% of users), with the majority of users in the 25 to 34 years old age bracket (although between 18 and 54 there’s not a whole lot of difference in usage percentages). Facebook use is spread pretty evenly by household income, so it doesn’t seem to matter much how much cash you make…
- Twitter: Twitter users in the UK are spread fairly evenly between men and women (48% male, 47% female), and again the primary age group is that 25 to 34 bracket. Here though, that’s a big majority, other age brackets really don’t use Twitter anywhere near as much. There’s not a huge difference in household income, though richer (£48k+) households tend to use Twitter a little more.
- Instagram: Far more women than men use Instagram in the UK. And when it comes to age, that 15 to 24 age group grabs by far the highest market share.
In general, according to Datareportal’s 2019 Social Media study for the UK, 25 to 34-year-olds use social media more than any other age group, with slightly more male users than female users.
When it comes to children, research is a little more difficult to find, though it’s clear that kids are big social media users. According to OFCOM’s 2018 Children and Parents Media Use and Attitudes Report:
- 18% of children aged between 8 and 11 have a social media profile
- 69% of children aged between 12 and 15 have a social media profile
UK Trends in Social Media
According to Global Digital Reports, the UK is reaching a saturation point when it comes to social media use, with growth rates slowing down markedly compared to past years:
- The percentage of the population using social media grew by just 1% between 2018 and 2019
- UK users are spending less time on social media than they did in the past. In 2018 the average user spent 1 hour 54 minutes using social media sites, in 2019 that has fallen to 1 hour 50 minutes per day
Should We Worry About How Much Time We Spend On Social Media?
Even though social media use is falling in the UK, we still spend a lot of our time using these sites. Is this something that we should worry about? Well, there are some potentially negative consequences of spending too much time on social media:
- Overuse of social media has been shown to increase the risk of eating disorders and negative body image
- Too much time on social media has been correlated with problems sleeping and increased rates of depression
- Spending a lot of time on social media can increase anxiety, and make face to face “real life” interactions more difficult, resulting in users withdrawing
- Increased use of social media has been linked to social isolation
- The constant comparison of your life against another’s on social media is linked to negative feelings of self-worth and jealousy
- The Royal Society for Public Health has warned that the over-use of social media may lead to mental health problems
How Much is Too Much?
There’s really no easy answer to that question since appropriate social media use really depends on you and your lifestyle. The simplest way to think about things is that if your social media use is impacting your ability to live your life then you may be using it too much. Could you be addicted to social media? Psychologists recommend that you ask yourself the following questions to decide if your social media use has become problematic:
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use it/planning out posts?
- Do you feel the need to connect more and more often?
- Do you go on social media to try and feel better about yourself, or to try and forget about personal problems?
- Have you tried to cut down on social media use and been unsuccessful?
- Do you feel bad or restless if you can’t get on your social media apps?
- Is the use of social media having a negative impact on your job or studies?
- Do you prefer being online to meeting people in real life?
- Do you often feel depressed, like you’re not good enough, or worthless? Particularly when compared to your online friends?
What Should I Do If I Have a Problem?
If you think that you do have a problem with social media addiction then there are tons of resources available to help you. You can always try going cold turkey and switching off the internet, or replacing your smartphone with a dumbphone.
If that’s not going to do the trick, then think about getting some pro help. You can get psychological help through the NHS here. Or you can turn to UK Addiction Treatment Centres for help. You can get phone help and counselling through CABA by calling +44 (0) 1788 556 366 twenty-four hours a day, or access their online chat counselling here.
Social Media and Privacy
It would be remiss of us to talk about the downsides of social media use without mentioning the issue of privacy. We don’t have space here to go into all the ins and outs of social media privacy. However, your social media profiles can make it easier for phishers to get important info about you that can be used to steal your identity (or even steal your stuff if you’re foolish enough to post a picture of your house one week and the info that you’re going on holiday the next week).
Safeguarding your social media profile has to be a priority, and it’s up to you to make sure that your data is safe. Most social media sites make profiles public by default, so if you want to be safe you’re going to need to dig around in those settings to find a way to keep your profile and info private…
Social Media: The Bottom Line
As a country, we do spend a lot of time on our mobile phones and social media, and most of us are on one social media site or another. Of course, there are tons of advantages to being on social media. Keeping in contact with friends and family, making new friends, finding new information, or just having a laugh are all important. But not all social media use is “good.” Overusing social media can have an effect on your mental well being.
Social media use in the UK isn’t exactly declining, though we’re not using it quite as much per day as we have in the past, it’s not growing either. Is the age of social media coming to a close? Probably not. However, with big changes for Facebook, lower user numbers for Twitter, and the average amount of time each of us uses social media dropping, it could be that there are bigger social media changes on the horizon.