Adults from the ages of 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of six hours and 58 minutes on social media per week, compared with six hours and 19 minutes for their younger counterparts.
We all know the stereotype: silly millennials, tethered to their phones, unable to accomplish the simplest tasks without scrolling their Instagram feeds, snapping their friends and/or tweeting inanely.
But a Nielsen report released last week shows that Americans from 18 to 34 are less obsessed with social media than are some of their older peers.
Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes a week for their younger counterparts. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on social media, with an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week on the networks.
Sean Casey, the president of Nielsen’s social division, said that the finding had initially surprised him, because “the going thought is that social is vastly owned by the younger generation.”
“It’s kind of synonymous,” said Mr. Casey, who wrote the foreword to the report. “When you think of millennials, you think of social.”
Mr. Casey, 46, said that eventually, the finding started to make more sense to him.
“At a time when we wanted to be connected, it came out right when we were at the top of our media consumption,’’ he said. “It’s become second nature to our generation.”
The finding emphasized how ubiquitous the smartphone has become. The report, released Jan. 17, found that in the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34 and 94 percent of people 35 to 49 had access to smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found.
The 29-page report was based on data from 9,000 smartphone and 1,300 tablet users from across the country from last July through September. The data was not self-reported.
The report also broke out which social networks were most popular on smartphones, finding that Facebook still ruled the roost on mobile, with about 178.2 million unique users in September. It was followed by Instagram with 91.5 million unique users; Twitter, with 82.2 million unique users; and Pinterest, with 69.6 million users.
Despite the hype, Snapchat, a favorite of younger users, was sixth on the list, behind the professional networking site LinkedIn.
Finally, the report looked at second-screen activity on social media, measuring how many times Facebook and Twitter users used those sites to post or tweet about programs that they were watching, or to interact with others’ posts and tweets.
Again, in this category, it was Generation X that couldn’t look away from its device screens: On an average day, the report found that 42 percent of those interacting with television on Facebook were from 35 to 49, while only 40 percent of millennials were doing the same thing.