Get this: Facebook has 2 billion monthly active users. That means nearly two thirds of Earthlings with internet access are faithful customers of Zuck’s social network. Not only that, the average user spends nearly an hour on the site every day.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Given the option, most humans will willingly give up six percent of their lives documenting every mind-numbingly trivial event and random thought in their heads for the viewing pleasure of friends who couldn’t stand to be around them for more than five minutes in person.

Let’s put that in perspective.

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years. Nobody really wants to hang around much longer in a decrepit state, but if you simply gave up Facebook, that would be the equivalent of an extra five years of life – five years you can actually enjoy living. The time you spend taking pictures and selfies for Facebook posts is on top of that.

Google’s YouTube has 1.5 billion users that spend about an hour a day watching dumb amateur videos. That’s closest to Facebook in terms of market penetration and engagement … and another five years of their lives those people will never get back, not to mention the time spent making videos.

I’ve heard the argument that it’s no different from watching TV or any other hobby, but we’re actually not watching less TV: viewing in the U.S. has remained essentially constant at 5 hours a day, give or take. We actually spend about the same amount of time with our eyes glued to computer displays.

Some of us show remarkable dexterity, doing both time-wasting activities simultaneously. Now that’s special.

What does that say about us and our culture? Mostly that, given the choice, we will give up years and years of our precious time – time we will never get back – to become mindless zombies or, more accurately, lab mice in a Skinner Box behavioral conditioning experiment, as explained quite eloquently (at least I think so) in Real Leaders Don’t Follow (shameless plug).

And yes, I know that some of us get breathtakingly insightful commentary like this from our Facebook feeds and watch important videos showing the absolute best way to sharpen a chainsaw chain on YouTube, but still. Millions of years of evolution of the human brain … for this. Hard to believe.

Image credit Kroejsanka Mediteranka via Flickr

  • BigGameHunter

    Those facts should awaken even the dead. When you add what the government knows about each of us to what we know of each other though FB and the like, we might as well have chips imbedded that let everyone know our every move and thought. I recently concluded a safari to Cameroon where I was guided by Baku Pygmies. These wonderful people live in the rain forest and live off the land. They are so non-self-absorbed that they don’t even know their birthdates and their ages. They don’t have wrist watches. They have one change of clothes. When a Pygmy moves house, all that he has to carry is his machete. These revelations struck me. They are at peace with their surroundings, and all of their communications are in the moment face-to-face with their families and nature. There is something more human about them than us.

    • Steve Tobak

      Fascinating. Every day I spend in nature: gardening, landscaping, hiking, trail running, even lumberjacking, is a good day.

  • Anurodh Sharma

    Steve, thanks for stating the obvious……Zombies is the perfect word for addiction to FB, YOUTUBE, TV,…..to name a few.