How Much Time Do We Spend On Our Phones?

How Much Time Do We Spend On Our Phones?

Head down, swift pace, arms cocked, no eye contact.  We all know this look and according to a recent study, 69% of us likely walk like this ourselves.  You aren’t carefully watching where you are stepping, in fact, you probably aren’t watching where you are even going.  You are staring at a 5-inch screen trying to absorb all of the information that the little device in your hands is feeding you and forgetting to look up and notice that you walked 2 blocks past your apartment/work/bar.

There are 24 hours in a day.  How will you use it?  Or… Do we actually have 24 hours in a day?  Odd question, right?  Before diving in more, let’s break it down.  The average person sleeps around 8 hours a day to be at their peak productivity level.  Right there, your day is knocked down to 16 hours.  Getting up, eating breakfast, getting ready for work and making sure others in the house are ready as well knocks a conservative 1 hour off your day.  So now we are down to 15 hours.  Most Americans work 8 hour days with a 30-minute lunch break and about 3 10-minute “refresher” breaks.  At this point, we are down to around 6.5 hours.  Finally factoring in traffic to get to your work, the average American spends about 42 hours per year in traffic.  Considering there are only around 260 working days in 2017, that means the average person spends around 15 minutes in traffic (I wish).  So, what is it that we do with that “extra” 6.25 hours per day.  We all have our priorities, but according to the statistics, we all have similar priorities even though we all probably lead drastically different lives.

A recent study shows that the average American spends around 5 hours per day on their smart phone.  This is a 20% increase since 2015.  Our phone usage increased around 20% in only two years when the smartphone is still arguably evolving and reaching its full potential.  If we stay on this path and allow for a little bit of an uptick in the 20% increase due to natural progression of innovation, more access in remote regions and a more “global neighborhood” spearheaded by the likes of Facebook and Google and bring that increase to an additional 25% in usage of smartphones by 2020, by 2020 users will be on their phone for around 6.25 hours per day doing something that probably isn’t even around yet and potentially not even imaginable by most.  Remember how many hours of free time, statistically speaking, that most average Americans have?  6.25.  Plan your day accordingly.

Following the current 5 hours per day number, that means on average we spend 35 hours per week on our phones.  Congratulations, we almost all now have a second full-time job.  What is that about the new generation(s) being “lazy”?  Per 30 day month, we spend 150 hours on our smartphone.  150 hours equals out to roughly 6 days.  In the first industrialized version of “social” media, Johannes Gutenberg undoubtedly revolutionized printing which in turn changed how we created and share information forever (ya know, kind of like social media…).  Prior to him, every book was written by hand and extremely expensive.  With the creation of the printing press, Gutenberg was able to print around 25 pages per hour with his printing press (versus around 4 pages per hour with handwriting).  Using his famous 1,286 page Bible as an example, it took Gutenberg around 51 hours to print one Bible.  If he worked a regular 8 hour work day, it took him about 6 days to print one Bible.  You spent it checking your Facebook for the 500th time.  So, how many hours per year is this?  1,825.  Do you know how long it takes to drive Coast to Coast while enjoying the ride and not rushing through it?  About 10 days or 240 hours.  You could drive Coast to Coast 7.5 times in one year and see pretty much every. single. inch. of America that you’d want to see (if you’re slightly masochistic).  Instead, you are on Google Maps trying to find Pokémon to capture or playing PacMan with your neighborhood streets.  How about you just remember to get your oil changed every once in a while.

Ok, we get it, we are addicted to our phones.  How does this relate to other areas of free time usage in our lives?  This is where it gets interesting.  According to a Nielsen report, the average American watches about 4.5 hours of “live” TV per day with a sometimes additional ½ hour of pre-recorded TV (DVR, Netflix, etc.).  How is this even possible?  It’s not even really a question of ‘how is this even possible’, but more so something remarkable.  The goldfish and the fruit fly are often used as a reference for the average American’s attention span.  Terrifying to think about considering a fly is constantly moving and a goldfish is well… not easy to keep in one place either.  Should we be a little concerned?  Well, the goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds and a fruit fly has the attention span of 3-4 seconds (I assume they couldn’t keep track of it long of enough to figure out a definitive number).  Where does the Average American fall in this 4-9 second spectrum?  8 seconds.  Not terrible, but not great.  Here’s the kicker, from the year 2000 to 2015, our attention span dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds which is a 33% decrease.  Much more concerning considering our “smartphone addiction” isn’t curbing anytime soon.  Remember how I said our ability to be on our phones for 5 hours a day and watch TV for 4.5 hours a day with the average American only having 6.25 hours of free time is remarkable?  It’s because it is.  We aren’t even considering cooking, exercising, yard work, hanging out with friends, etc.  The average Americans that fall into this “average” category are anything but average and more like super multi-tasking machines.

Now that we are all in the middle of questioning our use of free time, let’s dive a little deeper into these statistics so we can get the full picture and choose wisely just what we want to do about this.  According to Social Media Today, the average teen spends about 9 hours on social media (how this is possible is a better question), but the average person only spends about 2 hours each day divided between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat.  The average person lives to be around 79 years old which means 57,670 hours are spent on just those five apps alone in one lifetime.  If we discredit the first 10 years of that life where you most likely aren’t actively on any social media platform, that means you spend about 50,370 hours on just the “Big Five”.  Keep in mind that this is not including the additional 3 hours we spend doing other things on our phone.  If you add all of that in, a 79-year life would put you around 144,175 total hours spent on your phone and a 69-year life would put you around 125,925 total hours spent on your phone.

Something to consider before this next part is that it is widely accepted and stated by Malcolm Gladwell, that 10,000 hours spent doing anything will make you an expert in almost anything.  With that said, and taking the 79-year-old life span “Big Five” total of 57,670, here are some things that you could do that would actually make a difference or potentially make a difference instead of a mindlessly clicking away on a screen.

According to studies, putting in 5 hours a day can allow you to learn an easy language with basic fluency takes around 96 days or 144 days for full fluency.  With 24 hours in a day, that takes around 3,456 hours for full fluency.  What if you dedicate just the two hours you spend on the “Big Five”?  If you wanted to learn just basic fluency in a language using only those two hours, it would take you about 134 days per language.  Since there are 365 days in a year, you could learn 2 or more languages within a year.  This isn’t considering languages that have similarities and are easier to learn once you’ve learned another.

Following the 10,000 hour guideline and using the 2 hours spent on the “Big Five”, if you only learned one instrument at a time instead of multiple at a time, it would take you around 14 years to become an expert with that instrument.  At that rate, you could become an expert with around 5 instruments in one lifetime.  Congratulations, you are successfully a one-man band.

It takes about 600 hours to become a certifiable chef.  If you took only 1 hour a day for five days a week out of the 5 hours per day you spend on your phone, it would only take you around 15 months to reach the 300 marker making you an amateur chef that knows what to do in the kitchen.  If you’re ambitious, that means it would only take you about 2.5 years to become what most consider to be a professional chef.  Now, what is more impressive?  That snarky comment you left on a Facebook video or cooking your significant other a perfect Beef Wellington with a chocolate soufflé for dessert?  That’s what I thought.

After that terrifying breakdown of how much you stare at a screen, let’s take a step back and just look at exactly how much data we are really using to make all of this happen.  In 2015, the average U.S. smartphone user consumed about 1.5GB of cell data.  Today, that same consumer uses about 7-8GB of cell data per month while also using about 21-24GB of Wi-Fi data per month due to things like streaming.  In 2 years, we have increased our data usage by almost 8x.  With the adoption of mobile by more and more industries and more innovation happening daily on that little screen, the cell data usage could very well double within the coming years.

Have our phones ruined us or advanced us?  That’s up for debate, but there is no denying that it has stolen time from us.  Inevitably, this gets you thinking, “What the heck did people do before the internet, smart phones, etc?!”  What a boring life.  I don’t even want to think about what people did before the 1900s.  But what did people do just a mere 30 years ago?  Never will new generations have to understand the thousands of filling index cards called the “Dewey Decimal System” which is still a mind-boggling way of organizing things.  Never will the new generations have to drive to the mall (or record shop) to buy that new album.  Never will the new generation have distance be an issue for a relationship, a group project or a family member to see each other with the advent of things like Skype and Google Docs.  Never will the new generation really find a need for photo albums because of things like Instagram.  Never will the new generations have to wait for hoursssss for their favorite song to come on the radio so they could record it with the tape deck or understand what “skipping” is with a cd player.  Never will the new generation have to unfold a map the size of a card table to see where they are driving to and perfectly decipher which roads to take that will get them to their destination the fastest (while not even knowing about accidents along the way!  The horror!).  These are all beautiful things that defined generations, but they are things that will be lost forever.  It’s an exciting time to see so much rapid, aggressive expansion within such a short time frame, but an equally concerning time considering the amount of time we are “wasting” (unless you’re using Duolingo to learn a new language).  It must be interesting to hear a social media app telling you to spend less time on social media.  We do want you to spend less time on social media.  That’s why our app has combined 6 of the top social media apps and 4 of the top messaging apps into one app so you can spend more time living.  Everything in moderation is more important than ever.  Now go learn that new language.


By Brian Flick




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