Not only are we spending more time on social media, but we're evidently having trouble setting boundaries and pulling ourselves away. Nearly a third of people ages 18 to 24 surveyed by research giant Nielsen said they have used social networking while in the bathroom.
That's among the more striking bits of data showing how addicted Americans have become to connection through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and other networks, culled together in Nielsen's annual Social Media Report, released Monday.
Women 'Like' It More
Also of note is that women are spending substantially more time on social media than men: eight hours, 37 minutes when using a PC and nine hours, 43 minutes when using mobile devices, compared with six hours, 13 minutes and six hours, 44 minutes for men, respectively, in July.
Based on interviews, analytics and other data, Nielsen reports that American consumers spent a mind-boggling combined 520.1 billion minutes accessing the Internet this July, up sharply from 430.4 billion last July. Of that, 129.4 billion minutes were spent on mobile applications, more than double last year's 58.8 billion.
They spent more of that time liking photos and statuses, sending tweets or reading blogs than they did shopping, doing research or paying bills. Twenty percent of consumers using PCs and 30 percent of those using mobile devices were on social networks.
The total time spent on social media in July was estimated at 121.1 billion minutes, up from 88.4 billion a year earlier.
And Facebook, which has 1 billion user accounts, remained "the most popular Web brand in the U.S.," Nielsen said, with 152.2 million unique PC visitors in July. Facebook usage commanded a 17 percent share of consumers' minutes spent on the Web.
Google's blog-hosting site Blogger came in a distant second with 58.5 million unique visitors, followed by 37 million for Twitter. Twitter's mobile app saw 3.6 billion minutes spent by users collectively, compared with 27 billion for Facebook.
"When it comes to accessing social content, it's all about mobile," Nielsen said in its report. "App usage now accounts for more than a third of social network time across PCs and mobile devices." That's a 76 percent jump from last year.
So, are we a society wasting our productivity on nonsense, posting and reposting jokes and memes and cat videos and letting the economy slip even deeper into the abyss?
Lee Rainey, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, doesn't think so.
Still Getting Things Done
"All the aggregate economic data say that American productivity has increased every year since 2002, which you could take as the beginning of the social media era with blogs coming into some cultural prominence," Rainey told us. (The rate of productivity growth, however, has declined during that period, from 4.6 percent to 0.7 percent in 2011.)
Studying engagement on social media has become a top fascination for researchers. A September phone survey by the Pew Center found that 46 percent of Internet users post original photos and videos online they have created themselves and 41 percent curate photos and videos they find elsewhere. It also found that women are more likely than men to use Pinterest, while Instagram and Tumblr attract equal shares of men and women.
A November survey found that 22 percent of registered voters had announced their pick for president on social media.
"There are lots of things that people do and feel about social media, so it's not just a matter of being all-for-the-good or all-for-the-worse," Rainey said.