Posted January 21, 2013 3:28 pm by with 2 comments

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clockHow much time do you spend on Facebook every day?

Students in a study by Harvard’s Berkman Center Professor Reynol Junco came back with an average of 149 minutes. Almost two and a half hours a day! But that’s not the crazy part.

Junco suspected that the number was off because they usually are when you ask people to report on their own behavior. So he installed a tracking device (with permission) in the computers of his students then added up the time for them.

Self-reported time: 149 minutes.

Actual time spent of Facebook: 26 minutes.

Wow. How can people be off by that much?

One option is that the very fact that they were being monitored changed their behavior. If you knew you were being watched, wouldn’t you spend less time of Facebook?

But why over estimate in the first place? Wouldn’t you be more likely to downplay the importance of a social media site in your life? Junco says the opposite is true.

Students may have implicit theories about how they use technology that are likely based on messages received by the media and adults (i.e., “youth use Facebook a lot!”). This would lead them to give inflated estimates of the actual amount of time they spend on the site.

Another issue is simply our lack of ability to gauge time, especially when using the internet. Think about how you move around the web. A few seconds here, a few seconds there. A Twitter message comes in so you pop over to Twitter to reply, then stay to read a couple of Tweets even though you’re in the middle of a game on Facebook. If Facebook was open on a tab while you were on Twitter, does that count as time spent?

It’s hard to quantify time online because there are no boundaries. I can tell you how many hours I spent watching TV last night because I can count the number of shows, each show is one hour, so it’s simple. But I couldn’t begin to tell you how much time I spent checking and answering email because I do it in short spurts throughout the day. If I had to say, I’d probably over estimate because it feels like a lot of time, but if I collected up all the little bits and strung them together, it’s probably less around a half hour.

It could be that students overestimate their time because Facebook is everywhere. You’re here reading this article, but there’s a Facebook Like button on the side and a Facebook login option if you want to comment. So even though you’re not on Facebook, in a way, you are.

How much time do you spend on Facebook everyday? Now you can feel better about your answering knowing that it’s probably a lot less than you think.

[Thanks to The Atlantic for the tip]


  • Excellent article! This goes to show the importance of using reliable analytics data when measuring anything. Human perspectives can be skewed by a variety of factors. We encourage all of our clients to use automated analytics when tracking their marketing campaign performance.

  • There are several studies of time spent online and our various activities. People tend to overestimate their time spent on social activities online and underestimate their time spent on non-soclal activities such as email. They also do not take into account the “attention switch” time – the few seconds of downtime as their brain changes attention from what they are doing to dealing with that email that just popped in. It appears that people spend around one hour a day dealing with emails, one hour a day on unproductive search activities and one hour a day on “attention switch”. We’d all be more productive if we did not deal with email or Twitter etc the moment they arrive. Studies show you can deal with email in about 20 mins a day – if you only check it once a day. Similarly, dealing with social media in chunks of a few minutes in the morning and a few mins in the evening saves you time. Plus you remove that “attention switch” time. Being systematic online means you recoup a couple of hours a day – hours that you did not know you were losing because our ability to track time online is woefully inadequate.