Social media has overtaken television as the favourite hobby of 16-24 year-olds, according to a new UK study by Click Consult.

social mediaThis age group talks to friends more through social media than on the phone; and on average spends almost three hours a day using social media, regardless of where they are. And 65% of 16-24-year-olds say they prefer social networking to television.

“The social media revolution is not new, but for it to now take over from the nation’s favourite pastime for the younger audience, truly indicates how quickly leisure habits are evolving in our digital age,” says Managing Director of Click Consult, Matt Bullas.

The social media surfing tide is also rising in older age groups, with TV and social media enjoying an equal split amongst 25-34 year olds, and some 32% of 55+ year olds saying they look at social media before their television.

Dr Mark Bendall, Senior Lecturer, Political Communications and Criminology at the University of Chester commented on the findings: “These results show just how important the Web 2.0 era is for young people and how it is positively impacting their lives.

“A number of recent academic studies, for example from the Macarthur foundation and Boyd, have pointed out that despite adult fears, young people are actually gaining virtual literacy skills and building social capital through social networking, gaining friends, which help them participate in Web 2.0 society.”

The survey of more than 1,300 people across the UK revealed that the youngest adult generation (16-24-year-olds) spent longer online than any other age range, with more than 50% saying they talk more to friends on social media than face-to-face or over the phone.

London and Yorkshire topped the social media user league table, while Northern Ireland came in as the least social media savvy – with just 20% of all respondents there choosing social media as their favourite pastime.

Meanwhile, girls are far more likely to chat and update on social media, with 10% more girls (43%) than boys (33%) preferring social media to television.

“We’re not saying this is the death of TV, but we envisage seeing more multimedia opportunities being developed in partnership with TV to encourage cyber conversation, especially when you consider that 40% of the younger audience are on social media at the same time as watching TV” adds Matt Bullas. “We’re already seeing Twitter feeds and hashtags regularly posted onto TV screens of our favourite shows and this will only get more integrated.”

A surprising 6% of the 16-24-year-olds surveyed (amounting to more than 420,000 young people in the UK) admitted spending more than eight hours a day on social media – and some have no limits on where they will connect – with  some claiming to engage with social media whilst on the toilet, at the top of mountains, in the law courts, or even from the operating table.