Visualizing Social Media Use by Generation
Our world has never been more connected than it is today.
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is plugged into the matrix, with over 4.4 billion internet users across multiple device types. We use these devices for work and for play—and social media has altered the way we interact both online and offline.
Today’s infographic from Global Web Index compares key generational and regional differences of social media use based on data from nearly 114,000 internet users, highlighting how pervasive social media has become in our lives.
Note: China is excluded from the usage data regarding specific social networks and apps.
From Age to Age: Social Media by Generation
How does the use of social media vary by generation?
Boomers currently rank last in nearly every category and metric when it comes to technology and social media use. This generation didn’t grow up inundated with technology in the way today’s youth are.
However, Boomers are showing the greatest increase in activity on social media platforms. For example, usage of Instagram and WhatsApp is up 59% and 44% respectively for this group since 2016, which is more than double the global average.
Also known as the ‘MTV Generation’, the Gen X group was the last generation to grow up before the Internet truly took off. The early years of this group were marked by a burst of new technologies, from wireless phones to personal computers.
On average, Gen Xers spend nearly two hours on social media per day—less than Millennials and Gen Z, but more than Boomers.
Perhaps surprisingly, Millennials show a slow down in the time spent on social media. From 2017-2018, screen time for Millennials on social media decreased by one minute, to 2 hours 38 minutes per day. This trend points to Millennials seeking real-life experiences and better engagement from the brands they interact with online, rather than passive scrolling.
Other factors also play a role in this evolution─nearly 50% of Millennials admit that their activity on social media has caused them to overspend to impress their networks.
Gen Z is the first group in history that has never known a world without the Internet. Immersed in the online world since birth, Gen Z surpasses Millennials in daily activity on social media with 2 hours 55 minutes spent per day.
North American, Latin American, and European Generation Z-ers lead in the number of social accounts they’re actively using. Many are also moving away from platforms like Facebook in favor of multimedia-heavy sites such as YouTube and Instagram.
Social Media by the Numbers
Social media sites measure the number of unique users on the platform each month as a metric of success. Below is a snapshot of the five major social media sites shown in today’s graphic and their active user count.
Monthly Active Users (MAU) as of July 2019
- Facebook: 2.4 billion
- YouTube: 2 billion
- WhatsApp: 1.6 billion
- Instagram: 1 billion
- Twitter: 330 million
Even more striking is what happens in a social media minute:
- 41.6 million messages sent over Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
- 347,222 people are scrolling Instagram
- 87,500 people posting to Twitter
- 4.5 million videos on YouTube being watched
Social Media’s Role in Retail
Social media has evolved from simply keeping us connected to our friends. Users can now access career tools, engage with their favorite companies, stay current with global events, and find love.
Across all regions and generations, social media has propelled e-commerce into the limelight. More than ever before, social media sites are being used for product research, brand engagement, and online purchases. For example, Instagram now offers one-click shop features that allow users to buy what they see immediately, with a simple tap on their screens.
The greatest growth in e-commerce, however, has been the influencer industry. These star-studded internet personalities boast massive online followings from a wide range of demographics—and companies are taking notice.
In 2018, 72% of major brands stated that they were outsourcing a significant portion of their marketing resources to online influencers. Followers feel as though they’re getting a product recommendation from a friend, making them more likely to buy quickly.
Social Media Growth
Despite the rate of social media growth slowing down, social media use is still growing. From 2017 to 2018, the average person increased usage by three minutes per day, while becoming a new user of 0.8 social media accounts.
Social media is a broad, multi-faceted, and complex industry that appeals to a wide range of cultures, age groups, and personalities. While growth in social media activity may be slowing down, a growing global population may mean we’ll see more opportunities to stay connected.
How Big Tech Revenue and Profit Breaks Down, by Company
How do the big tech giants make their money? This series of graphics shows a breakdown of big tech revenue, using Q2 2022 income statements.
In the media and public discourse, companies like Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft are often lumped together into the same “Big Tech” category. After all, they constitute the world’s largest companies by market capitalization.
And because of this, it’s easy to assume they’re in direct competition with each other, fiercely battling for a bigger piece of the “Big Tech” pie. But while there is certainly competition between the world’s tech giants, it’s a lot less drastic than you might imagine.
This is apparent when you look into their various revenue streams, and this series of graphics by Truman Du provides a revenue breakdown of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.
How Big Tech Companies Generate Revenue
So how does each big tech firm make money? Let’s explore using data from each company’s June 2022 quarterly income statements.
View the full-size infographic
In Q2 2022, about 72% of Alphabet’s revenue came from search advertising. This makes sense considering Google and YouTube get a lot of eyeballs. Google dominates the search market—about 90% of all internet searches are done on Google platforms.
View the full-size infographic
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon’s biggest revenue driver is e-commerce. However, as the graphic above shows, the costs of e-commerce are so steep, that it actually reported a net loss in Q2 2022.
As it often is, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the company’s main profit-earner this quarter.
View the full-size infographic
Apple’s biggest revenue driver is consumer electronics sales, particularly from the iPhone which accounts for nearly half of overall revenue. iPhones are particularly popular in the U.S., where they make up around 50% of smartphone sales across the country.
Besides devices, services like Apple Music, Apple Pay, and Apple TV+ also generate revenue for the company. But in Q2 2022, Apple’s services branch accounted for only 24% of the company’s overall revenue.
View the full-size infographic
Microsoft has a fairly even split between its various revenue sources, but similarly to Amazon its biggest revenue driver is its cloud services platform, Azure.
After AWS, Azure is the second largest cloud server in the world, capturing 21% of the global cloud infrastructure market.
Animation: The Most Popular Websites by Web Traffic (1993-2022)
This video shows the evolution of the internet, highlighting the most popular websites from 1993 until 2022.
The Most Popular Websites Since 1993
Over the last three decades, the internet has grown at a mind-bending pace.
In 1993, there were fewer than 200 websites available on the World Wide Web. Fast forward to 2022, and that figure has grown to 2 billion.
This animated graphic by James Eagle provides a historical look at the evolution of the internet, showing the most popular websites over the years from 1993 to 2022.
The 90s to Early 2000s: Dial-Up Internet
It was possible to go on the proto-internet as early as the 1970s, but the more user-centric and widely accessible version we think of today didn’t really materialize until the early 1990s using dial-up modems.
Dial-up gave users access to the web through a modem that was connected to an active telephone line. There were several different portals in the 1990s for internet use, such as Prodigy and CompuServe, but AOL quickly became the most popular.
AOL held its top spot as the most visited website for nearly a decade. By June 2000, the online portal was getting over 400 million monthly visits. For context, there were about 413 million internet users around the world at that time.
|Rank||Website||Monthly Visits (May 2000)|
But when broadband internet hit the market and made dial-up obsolete, AOL lost its footing, and a new website took the top spot—Yahoo.
The Mid 2000s: Yahoo vs. Google
Founded in 1994, Yahoo started off as a web directory that was originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.”
When the company started to pick up steam, its name changed to Yahoo, which became a backronym that stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
Yahoo grew fast and by the early 2000s, it became the most popular website on the internet. It held its top spot for several years—by April 2004, Yahoo was receiving 5.6 billion monthly visits.
|Rank||Website||Monthly Visits (April 2004)|
But Google was close on its heels. Founded in 1998, Google started out as a simpler and more efficient search engine, and the website quickly gained traction.
Funny enough, Google was actually Yahoo’s default search engine in the early 2000s until Yahoo dropped Google so it could use its own search engine technology in 2004.
For the next few years, Google and Yahoo competed fiercely, and both names took turns at the top of the most popular websites list. Then, in the 2010s, Yahoo’s trajectory started to head south after a series of missed opportunities and unsuccessful moves.
This cemented Google’s place at the top, and the website is still the most popular website as of January 2022.
The Late 2000s, Early 2010s: Social Media Enters the Chat
While Google has held its spot at the top for nearly two decades, it’s worth highlighting the emergence of social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
YouTube and Facebook certainly weren’t the first social media platforms to gain traction. MySpace had a successful run back in 2007—at one point, it was the third most popular website on the World Wide Web.
|Rank||Website||Monthly Visits (Jan 2007)|
But YouTube and Facebook marked a new era for social media platforms, partly because of their impeccable timing. Both platforms entered the scene around the same time that smartphone innovations were turning the mobile phone industry on its head. The iPhone’s design, and the introduction of the App store in 2008, made it easier than ever to access the internet via your mobile device.
As of January 2022, YouTube and Facebook are still the second and third most visited websites on the internet.
The 2020s: Google is Now Synonymous With the Internet
Google is the leading search engine by far, making up about 90% of all web, mobile, and in-app searches.
What will the most popular websites be in a few years? Will Google continue to hold the top spot? There are no signs of the internet giant slowing down anytime soon, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that things change. And no one should get too comfortable at the top.
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