Has Time Online Reached Its Limit?

The time that the average user spends online seemed to stagnate towards the end of the 2010s, but in spite of the fact that this is the case the pandemic caused it to reach new and unforeseen highs. After reaching a high of 6 hours and 46 minutes in 2017, time spent online decreased to 6 hours and 41 minutes by 2019. This was followed by a ten minute increase in 2020, the year of widespread lockdowns, and subsequently a five minute increase in 2021.

That brought the total average time spent online withing touching distance of 7 hours, or 6 hours and 55 minutes to be precise, and many assumed that the growth rate would help this metric break the 7 hour mark in 2022. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that time spent online actually fell by a large margin, 13 minutes, to reach 6 hours and 43 minutes, as highlighted by Global Web Index.

That is the lowest number seen since 2017, and it suggests that time spent online might have hit a ceiling that it would no longer be able to break. The 13 minute decline represents the single biggest fall in the past decade. In fact, internet behaviors that are considered foundational to numerous industries have all seen a huge dip in terms of usage hours.

Business networking is down by 23 minutes, the biggest drop seen so far. Research related to business saw a 16 point decline, news reading dropped by 15 minutes, and even solid areas like online streaming saw as many as 9 minutes less in terms of time spent online.

One of the causes of this decline could be oversaturation. Consumers spent so much time online these past two years that they are taking a break, and it will only become clear once the numbers from next year come in. It will be interesting to see if online time can go back up in 2023, but that seems unlikely based on these numbers. People are getting busy with returning to their normal lives, and their internet usage will decline as a result.

H/T: CTD 2023 Global / GWI Report

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