Despite an overall decrease in the amount of time that people spend using the internet as a whole, new research from GWI shows that people are spending more time than ever using social media at the start of 2023.
The company’s latest data reveals that the typical working-age internet user now spends more than 2½ hours per day using social platforms, which is up by 2 percent (+3 minutes) compared with the daily average that the company reported at the start of 2022.
Social media dominates online time
Continuing a story that we explored in our analysis of the Digital 2022 October Global Statshot Report, social media accounts for an ever greater share of our total online time, too.
GWI’s latest wave of research suggests that social media now accounts for 38 percent of the world’s total daily online time.
That’s up from its 35.5 percent share this time last year, with that 2.5 percentage point increase representing a relative year-on-year share increase of 7.2 percent.
To put that figure in perspective, the typical working-age internet user now spends 30 percent more time using social media each day than they spend watching “traditional” TV (i.e. broadcast and cable).
And furthermore, social media’s share of overall internet time is even higher in many Asian countries.
At the top end of the spectrum, India’s working-age internet users report spending a hefty 44.4 percent of their total online time using social media, with Indonesians not far behind at 42.9 percent.
However, we also find Asian countries at the bottom end of the scale too, with the typical internet user in Japan and South Korea saying that they spend less than a quarter of their online time using social media platforms.
But it’s worth stressing that the figures for these two countries may be somewhat distorted by local platform preferences, as well as individual definitions of what constitutes a “social media” platform.
For example, intelligence from data.ai indicates that people tend to spend less time using messenger platforms compared with social networks and video platforms like TikTok.
And given that LINE and KakaoTalk dominate in Japan and South Korea (respectively), there’s a good chance that these platform habits reduce users’ average daily time.
Similarly, our analysis of various data points indicates that many people across North Asian countries do not consider messenger platforms to be a form of “social media”.
As a result, internet users in Japan and South Korea may “under-represent” the time that they spend using social platforms compared with people in other countries.
For added context, it’s interesting to note that the median age of a country’s overall population also appears to play a meaningful role in shaping how much time people spend using media.
While there are some exceptions to that trend, correlations between the data suggest that the older a country’s population, the smaller social media’s relative share of total internet time.
And when we look at social media’s share of internet time by age and gender, we see a similar pattern.
Overall, women tend to spend a greater share of their online time using social media platforms, but social’s relative share decreases steadily with age across all genders.
Average number of social media platforms used
On average, the world’s social media users make active use of more than 7 platforms each month, although that average varies by country, age, and gender.
Once again, India tops the ranking here, with the country’s working-age social media users saying that they use an average of 8.7 platforms each month.
Americans and Britons use between 6 and 7 platforms per month, but – consistent with my comments above –Japan and South Korea are once again at the bottom of the ranking.
And in what might come as a bit of a shock, Gen Z doesn’t rank top when it comes to the number of social platforms that they use each month.
GWI’s latest research indicates that the typical social media user between the ages of 16 and 24 uses 7.7 platforms per month, whereas users aged 25 to 34 use an average of 7.9.
Older users tend to use fewer platforms, but with people aged 55 to 64 still using an average of more than 5 platforms per month, the data clearly show that most social media users have a “portfolio” of social platforms that they use on a regular basis.
Time spent with individual social platforms
As a result, it’s well worth exploring trends in time spent at an individual platform level too.
Once again, behaviours vary meaningfully by country and by demographic, but each of these differences offers its own fascinating insights.
For overall context, analysis from data.ai indicates that TikTok enjoys the highest average daily use amongst its active user base.
However,with roughly twice as many total active users, Facebook tops the rankings in terms of total, cumulative time spent by all users on a daily basis.
Time spent using TikTok
At a worldwide level, data.ai’s figures show that the typical Android user spent close to a full day per month using TikTok’s mobile app throughout 2022, which equates to an annual total of roughly 17 waking days spent using TikTok alone.
However, at the top end of the spectrum, the typical Australian TikTok user spends almost 30 hours per month scrolling through content in the platform’s Android app, suggesting that they spent more than 3 full waking weeks on TikTok in 2022.
Average time spent remains relatively high at the lower end of the spectrum too, with data.ai intelligence showing that TikTok’s South Korean users spend almost 20 hours per month using its app on Android devices.
TikTok’s own data contains some pretty staggering stats, too.
For example, posts tagged with #FYP (“for you page”) have now been viewed a total of 35 trillion times, and even if each of those views had only lasted for one second, that would still add up to well over 1 million years of combined human existence.
Time spent using YouTube
Meanwhile, despite concerns amongst Google execs that TikTok may be stealing YouTube’s thunder, data.ai’s figures show that – at a worldwide level –there’s actually very little difference between the two platforms when it comes to average time spent per user.
Globally, the typical YouTube user spends 23 hours and 09 minutes using the platform’s Android app each month, which is under a minute per day less than TikTok’s global average.
But the local country picture is particularly interesting.
At the top end of the spectrum, South Koreans spend an average of 40 hours per month using YouTube’s Android app, which added up to 29 waking days –almost a full waking month – in 2022 alone.
Figures across Western Europe are somewhat lower, however, with users in Germany spending an average of just under 11 hours per month using YouTube’s Android app.
It’s also worth highlighting YouTube’s average in the US is lower than the country’s average for TikTok, which may explain why Google execs are so nervous about TikTok’s ascendance.
Time spent using Facebook
But perhaps the biggest surprise in data.ai’s individual platform numbers relates to Facebook.
Despite the seemingly endless stream of misrepresentation and misinformation relating to Facebook’s purported demise, there’s actually nothing in the data to support the idea that Facebook might be “dying”.
We explore the platform’s user numbers at some length in our deep-dive exploring the world’s most used social media platforms, but data.ai’s insights into time spent using the platform corroborate these findings.
Indeed, the latest data show that the typical Facebook user actually spent more time using Facebook’s mobile app in 2022 than they did in 2021.
Full-year averages show that the typical user spent close to 20 hours per month using Facebook’s Android app last year, up from 19.6 hours per month in 2021 to 19.7 hours per month in 2022.
Admittedly, that’s not a huge increase, but remember that this is the average across all worldwide users.
And if we multiply 6 minutes per month by the 2.91 billion users that Facebook had at the beginning of 2022, that equates 400,000 additional years in cumulative Facebook consumption during 2022 alone– and that doesn’t factor the 48 million new users that the platform added in the meantime.
The data does suggest that Facebook use in key markets like the United States has slipped slightly during the year though, from 16.1 hours per user, per month in 2021, to 15.5 hours per user, per month in 2022.
However, a decline of roughly one minute per day hardly signals that the platform is “dying”.
It’s also worth highlighting that Facebook use in India has grown by almost 2 hours per month, per user since this time last year.
India may not be Meta’s breadwinner, but with the country already home to the platform’s largest global audiences across all of its social platforms, the country is still central to the company’s continued success.
Time spent using Instagram
And there’s more good news for Zuck and team in the figures for average Instagram consumption, too.
data.ai’s analysis reveals that the typical Instagram user spent roughly 12 hours per month using the platform’s app during 2022, up from an average of 11.2 hours per month in 2021.
The company’s own data supports this too, with Dave Wehner –Meta’s CFO – stating similar findings on a recent investor earnings call:
“Specifically, in terms of aggregate time spent on Instagram and Facebook, both are up year-over-year in both the U.S. and globally. So while we’re not specifically optimising for time spent, those trends are positive.”
However, Instagram users only spend about half the time using Instagram’s Android app that TikTok users spend using TikTok’s Android app, which may once again demonstrate why execs at all the other top platforms are so worried about TikTok’s growth.
Once again though, there are meaningful differences in Instagram use by country, with users in Turkey spending an average of more than 21 hours per month using the platform’s Android app.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, users in South Korea and Mexico spend less than 7 hours per month using the app.
But the findings for the US are particularly interesting.
The latest data indicate that the typical user in the United States spends just 7.7 hours per month using Instagram’s Android app, which is 35 percent less than the global average.
Time spent using WhatsApp
And lastly for this analysis, the findings for WhatsApp reveal the importance of messenger platforms in many of the world’s larger, “developing” economies.
At a worldwide level, the typical WhatsApp user spends close to 17½ hours per month using the messenger’s Android app, which is more than a full waking day.
That figure is a lot lower across European and North American countries, but the monthly average jumps to more than 29 hours per month in Indonesia, with Brazil not far behind at 28.2 hours.
Average time per user is also relatively high in Argentina, while Mexicans and Indians also spend more time using WhatsApp’s Android app than the global average.
Dig deeper: read our complete Digital 2023 Global Overview Report to learn more about the world’s evolving digital behaviours.
Disclosure: Simon Kemp is a brand ambassador for GWI and data.ai.
Digital, Digital 2023, Digital 2023 Deep Dive, Digital 2023 Global Overview Report, Global, Analysis, Insights, Social Media