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Americans would rather play games on Facebook than reply to emails


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Social networking currently ranks number one as Americans’ favourite online pastime. A recent study by Nielsen reveals that U. S. Internet users spend more time on social networks and less on email, Web surfing or instant messaging.

The Nielsen study, “What Americans Do Online, ” shows that in June 2010, U. S. web users devoted 22.7 percent of their online time interacting with friends on social networks, up from 15.6 percent a year ago (a 43 percent increase). If condensed in one hour, the online time of Americans spent on social networks is 13.36 minutes.

Online games are the second favourite online pastime of Americans at 10.2 percent, up by 10 percent from June 2009’s 9.3 percent.

In contrast, email’s share of online time decreased by 28 percent, from last year’s 11.5 percent to 8.3 this year. Email ranks third as the most popular online activity in the U. S.

What the Nielsen study means sans statistical lingo: If a person you used to exchange emails with several times a day now takes a whole day to reply to your messages, or your regular Yahoo Messenger buddy now seems vague and distant when you chat, chances are, your friend is busy updating his status on Facebook or playing Farmville or Mafia Wars. The fact that Facebook, currently the leading social networking site, has a built-in chat feature does not bode well for traditional IM services. Maybe your friend thinks a poke is less intrusive than a buzz, but the fact remains that one can do a whole lot more on Facebook these days than on email or instant messaging services.

But don’t lose hope. If social networks were never your thing and you would just prefer to wait 6 or 12 hours for your friend to reply via Yahoomail or Gmail, your waiting time will be reduced if your friend is on the go.

According to Nielsen’s study on mobile Web users, email usage remains top on mobile phones. Americans’ Internet time devoted to mobile email activity rose from 37.4 percent in June 2009 to 41.6 percent in June 2010. In an hour, a mobile Web user spends 25 minutes on email, 7 minutes on other portals like, and 6.18 minutes on social networks (Farmville’s 24 x 24 farm definitely looks better on a wide computer screen than on a mobile phone’s, don’t you think?).

Nielsen tracked the Web usage of 200,000 Americans from June 2009 to June 2010. For its mobile Internet data, Nielsen surveyed 500,000 respondents each month.

Social networks and work productivity

In 2008, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and YouTube scored the highest spot in Internet Safety’s “Top 10 Online Time Wasters. ” Most of this time wasting occurs at work, according to another study by Nielsen.

Time spent (or wasted) on social networks is a growing concern not only in the U. S. In the United Kingdom, social networks are perceived to have a negative effect on workers’ productivity. Employment website surveyed 1,000 British workers and found that 6 percent of employees spend over an hour a day on social networks while at work. The lost time is estimated to cost U. K.companies 14 billion pounds or $22.15 billion.

Now, contrast this with the 2009 findings of Australian scientists that surfing the Web or visiting social networking sites while at work actually provided the much-needed mental break for stressed out workers.

The debate over social networks’ effect on workers’ productivity notwithstanding, the user base of social networking sites continues to rise. In fact, at 500 million, the number of Facebook users alone is greater than the combined population of U. S. (308 million), U. K (62 million) and Australia (22 million). This only goes to show that social networks are here to stay.

Leonor Albino writes for , North America's largest independent telecom consulting company.


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