This week, the results of a new study came out revealing that social media app usage for Android users was down 30% worldwide from this point last year. Also that social media app downloads and installations had dropped 9% in that same time period.
Why are we suddenly less social?
Unfortunately, nobody I was reading on the topic seemed to be drawing any conclusions other than that we’re tired of social media. And, sure, that might be enough. It’s as exhausting as it is addicting for everyone involved—content creators, content passers-along, and content consumers. Social media is one of those things that it’s a lot of fun to both love and hate. Like smartphones in general. But it’s also one of those things we can’t stop using even when we’re in a hate phase. Like smartphones in general.
Except that maybe we are. I man, 30% in a year is, to me, significant. I racked my brains (i.e., did a lot of Googling) to come up with a reason why. I mean, are smart watches both keeping our phones in our pockets and keeping us from staying on social media due to the tiny screens? Can’t be. That market has pretty much tanked, and any real progress it has made is in the Apple world, which wasn’t a part of the study, and is a minority on the international scene anyway.
I couldn’t come up with an answer, so I dropped the statistic on a colleague here at Maark. He immediately offered, “That’s weird. That just tells me we’re using smartphones less.”
And that…might be a bingo. I mean, what else do we do on our phones? The mobile web is still terrible, so we usually fill our many in-between times swiping through social feeds. I mean, we use them for email, but that’s always been the case. We’re not suddenly emailing more. I looked around for any stats about phone use being up or down in that same period, but naturally couldn’t find it (there’s never a good stat around when you need it).
When you can’t find stats, you find anecdotes, so I looked at my own data usage.
It turns out this month 42% of my data was bucketed as “Social Media and Networking.” The next largest bucket was 40%, which is “Web and Apps.” Verizon defines that category as “common destinations for Lifestyle & Interests, News and Media and Entertainment content.” And, honestly, I guarantee you a lion’s share of that content was accessed via social media. The next highest bucket for me was only at 10%. So I basically only use my phone (when I’m not on WiFi, at least) for social media.
I tried to compare it to the same time period last year for me, but Verizon only holds that information for 90 days. To protect me from the Feds, I assume. Still, if that’s any clue, if I ever have a drop in social media usage, it’ll actually be due to a drop in smartphone usage.
One of my data buckets got me to thinking, though. Is it because of the massive rise in podcasting? It wasn’t a big bucket on my usage stats, but that’s because I always download podcasts on WiFi. Podcasting has skyrocketed in the past two years, though. Maybe instead of checking our feeds on the bus, we’re keeping our phones in our pockets and listening to WTF and JRE on headphones?
I don’t know. But for sure I’m keeping my eyes on this trend to see if it continues over the next year. Because we can’t be getting tired of both social media and smartphones, can we? What kind of world is that to leave our children?