Global internet habits: Phone usage and social media still most popular

Global internet habits: Phone usage and social media still most popular
Credit: Belga / Bruno Fahy

A recent study by the New York-based creative agency We Are Social, and the social media management platform Hootsuite has revealed the extent of how much we live our lives online. The study shows how much time is spent on the internet and, more specifically, on social networks around the world.

According to UN population figures, there are 7.98 billion human beings in the world, five billion or 63% of which are internet users. Belgium has a population of around 11.5 million, 94% of which use the internet.

The We Are Social/Hootsuite study shows that of the five billion global internet users, 92.4% of them use their phones to access the internet. On average, a user spends 6 hours 53 minutes online per day. While this result may be surprising, it is still three minutes less than the figure reported in 2021.

Phone still most popular surfing device

The phone remains the most used device to access the internet, ahead of computers, chosen by 68% of global users.

While 85.5% of Belgians aged 16-64 years old access the internet via their phones, a surprising 98.4% of Nigerians, the top users in the mobile table, use their phones to surf the web. Most countries hover around the 83% mark with Denmark being the last country on the list with 83.2%.

According to the study, the most visited sites and applications on the internet concern chats and messaging with 95.7% of users, with social networks following closely with 95.2%.

YouTube is the most visited website, ahead of Google and Facebook. Keeping in touch with friends and family is the second reason to use the internet for 54.7% of 16–64-year-olds. "Finding information", a rather vague reason, is put forward by 60.2% of respondents.

Internet use per country

Some countries spend more time connected than others. Surprisingly, the Philippines comes out on top with 10 hours 23 minutes a day on average being spent on the internet, via any device. This is more than twice the time spent by the Japanese who stay connected 4 hours and 3 minutes a day, below the world average at 6 hours 53 minutes.

Users in the United States spend on average 7 hours and 11 minutes on the internet but do not even reach the top 10. Belgians spend 5 hours and 50 minutes online per day.

On average, global internet users spend 2 hours 29 minutes per day on social networks, which is 7 minutes longer than last year. According to the report, Gen Z spends an average of 4.5 hours a day on social media, making it their preferred platform for accessing entertainment, news, commerce and messaging.

Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Gen Z women and girls are reportedly the most addicted to social media. They spend an average of 3 hours 11 minutes online, against 2 hours 40 for men. The 55–64 age group is the least fond of these platforms. It should be noted that regardless of age, women spend the most time on social networks.

Social networks still lead the way

The use of social networks remains the most popular way to keep in touch with family and friends for 47.5% of users aged 16 to 24.

To fill their free time, 36.6% use these platforms, while 34.8% do so to "read news stories" while 31% use networks to search for articles or videos.

It should be noted that users of social networks also turn to these applications for their shopping needs: 27.6% are looking for inspiration for activities or to make purchases.

Credit: Belga / Bruno Fahy

Facebook remains the most used social media platform by internet users, followed by YouTube and WhatsApp. Instagram, WeChat, TikTok and Messenger. Snapchat is only 9th while Twitter is not even in the top 10.

Users do not just use a social network. On average, 7.4 platforms are used per month worldwide. India is the country using on average the most platforms with 8.7, compared to Japan with 3.7.

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If Facebook remains the most used platform, thanks to its astronomical number of users, 16–24-year-olds say 16.6% prefer WhatsApp ahead of Facebook and Instagram (14.9%). TikTok is chosen by only 4.6% ahead of Twitter (3.2%). Snapchat is favoured by only 1.3% of users.

WhatsApp is the preferred platform for 55–64-year-olds (20.9%), Facebook is more popular among 35–44-year-olds (16.5%) while Instagram is more popular among younger generations, 24.2% among 16–24-year-olds and 18% for 25–34-year-olds.

For users, each platform is used for different reasons. Facebook is used by 71.1%. to send messages to friends and family while TikTok (77.4%) and Reddit (37.8%) are used for entertainment. Not surprisingly, Instagram (69.9%) and Snapchat (40.3%) are the ideal platforms to post/share photos and videos.

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