Tuesday, June 18 2024

How much time do we spend online? Do we prefer TV or social media? Which countries have a population that uses the internet more, and which less?

To answer these questions and more, the new “Digital 2024 Global Overview Report” has been published. It’s a collaborative report from Meltwater and We Are Social, which reveals a range of digital trends, internet usage, and habits around the world. Let’s explore some of them.

  1. The number of internet users worldwide grows

A first interesting fact is that the number of phone and internet users is increasing worldwide. This tells us that less technologically advanced countries are catching up with the rest of the world.

69.4 percent of the world’s total population now uses a mobile device, with the global total increasing by 138 million (+2.5 percent) since the beginning of 2023.

More than 66% of all people on earth now use the internet, with the number of users having grown by 1.8% in the past 12 months.

Social media use is also on the rise. In fact, the key piece of news from this year’s report is that there are now more than five billion active users on social media platforms, increasing by 5.6% in the past year.

GWI’s latest research reveals that the “typical” user now spends 2 hours and 23 minutes per day using social media. Adding up each user’s hours, the global population will spend a total of 500 million years using social media in 2024. No matter how many battles can be waged against social media, it is clear that they fill a need: that of feeling connected to one another.

Although being connected virtually is increasingly becoming the norm in much of the world, and figures on the number of users and the number of hours spent online may seem impressive, more than 2.7 billion people worldwide are still offline. India alone is home to more than 680 million “disconnected.” Central African users remains under 50% of the population.

Among the bottom ten least internet-present countries, seven are African, with the Central African Republic with just over 10% of the population online.

Looking at these “oases” where technology has not invaded every sphere of life, one wonders if there is anything the hyper-connected can learn from the less connected. Certainly, life moves at a slower pace, but is it necessarily boring? Or is there something we could and would like to get back?

  1. Life online

The typical internet user now spends 6 hours and 40 minutes online each day.

This is an increase of nearly l1% over the same period last year. If we count an average of 400 minutes per user per day, the world will spend a total of 780 trillion minutes using the internet this year, which is equivalent to nearly 1.5 billion years of collective human existence, although there are significant differences between countries – especially by age. In general, the older the population, the less time the country spends online, because older people tend to spend less time using the internet than younger generations.

The most notable difference across ages is that younger people are actually more likely to use social networks than messaging apps.

The younger you are, the more you feel the pressing need for relationships and the sense of belonging to a community. Among teens, there is also a greater need for approval than other age groups. Hence, the search for reassuring likes, which the older age groups don’t mind going without.

  1. Decrease in time spent in front of the TV

The more the habit of connecting with others on social media and surfing the web grows, the less time is spent in front of the TV. The typical internet user now spends 17 fewer minutes a day watching TV than at the same time last year, representing an 8.2% annual decrease.

On average, however, working-age internet users still spend more time watching TV than using social media, and despite the recent decline, we can expect television to continue to play a central role in people’s daily lives for many years to come.

  1. TikTok versus Instagram and other growing platforms

TikTok’s total global advertising audience is now almost as large as Instagram’s.

Data reported in Bytedance’s advertising resources show that TikTok ads now reach a global audience of 1.56 billion users each month.

This is only 5.5% less than Instagram’s, according to Meta’s advertising resources, which brought the platform’s global ad audience to 1.65 billion in early 2024.

However, comparing adult audiences across participating countries, TikTok’s advertising audience reported to be up to 30% larger than Instagram’s advertising audience.

India remains Instagram’s largest market, where Meta’s latest data shows that Instagram ads reach a total audience of nearly 363 million.

Broadly speaking, most people are on both every month, meaning that many of the same people are likely to be reached on each platform.

The latest data shows that Facebook’s monthly active users have increased by 91 million, and LinkedIn is also a growing platform. Data published in LinkedIn’s corporate resources reveals that marketers can now reach more than 1 billion “members” using the platform’s advertising products. Finally, this is also the year of Snapchat, which seems to be gaining more and more visibility and interest from users.

A thought-provoking study

What does all this data tell us? How can we interpret it?

Among the many conclusions we can come to, one is certain: The world is becoming more and more digital. Moreover, we can see that friendships and human solidarity can also be strengthened by some social media platforms. Consider WhatsApp, an app that maintains – and can even revive – relationships, no matter the physical distance between people. Leaving a person a voice memo allows us to be close to someone or show interest in them, even if someone isn’t able to take a phone call.

Instagram and Facebook, and all other social networks that rely on the “showcase mechanism” (displaying our lives, thoughts, and products) are less useful for romantic and personal connections; however, it is possible to use them to post content that strengthens or brings hope to those who follow us.

The point is not so much to be or not to be on social media, but how one uses it: intelligently or superficially, for good or for vanity?

In other words, social media does not necessarily isolate us, if used as a means and not an end.

The most important thing is to not forget the beauty of real, tangible, concrete friendships – of relationships based on eye contact, words, shared smiles, etc.

The real challenge – on and off social media – is to create and maintain meaningful human relationships.

In this regard, technology is useful. It helps us in many ways, and it allows us to be anywhere we want, breaking down barriers. However, let’s be careful to not allow it to take away the most beautiful part of life: real encounters.

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