Social media now consume 23 percent of our time online, stealing time away from e-mail, reading news, and spending time at portals such as Yahoo.com, according a recent Nielsen study.
The study tracked the online activity of 200,000 American users from June 2009 to June 2010. Time invested on social networking sites grew nearly 50 percent -- from 16 percent to 23 percent -- and that social gaming surpassed e-mail to take the number two position. Americans now log an average of six hours per month twiddling thumbs on social networks.
Though e-mail usage dropped on desktops -- declining to 8.3 percent from 12 percent -- it remains dominant on mobile devices, occupying 42 percent of our smartphone time in comparison to 37 percent last year.
Use of Web portals such as Yahoo and Google dropped from 5.5 percent to 4.4 percent of online time. This could be due to the fact that Facebook status updates often contain direct links to articles and videos, no longer requiring individual search.
Online streaming video also experienced a slight surge to 3.9 percent from 3.5 percent. On average, Americans spent three hours and fifteen minutes watching videos online, courtesy of sites like YouTube and Netflix Instant Watch.
Social networkers aren't just teenyboppers anymore, either. Nielsen discovered that twice as many Americans over 50 visited social networks than kids under 18. That means your mom and dad aren't the only "hip" parents out there with Facebook pages.
But for those who fear that social networking isn't really socialization at all (I mean, is FarmVille really a dialogue?) there was some heartening data about the lasting power of conversation: Americans spend 36 percent of online time communicating across social networks, blogs, personal e-mail and instant messaging. Let's just hope we're actually saying something.