Does Facebook Beat Television for Your Time?

After finishing dinner tonight, I hopped on Facebook. I could have just as easily watched some TV shows – on my computer, since I don’t have one of those clunky wall units – but I found myself catching up with my friend’s updates, including relationship status changes, Twitters, groups joined, and party invites.

Once caught up, I turned to the web, where I read a blog post by Brad Feld, who raised an interesting point within a recent post about Facebook:

The Facebook Problem

Last week, I started saying to people “Facebook is a substitute for television.” I don’t think I made this up (I’m sure someone else said it first), but for the last decade many people involved in the Internet have been searching for the pure substitute for TV – what will you spend your online time playing with instead of sitting and passively watching TV. Facebook finally seems to be the tipping point for this.

I absolutely agree with Feld’s point. Personally, Facebook has overtaken TV as my first choice for entertainment at home, since it’s much more interesting to login to Facebook and catch up with friends than it is to passively watch a show. Facebook’s News Feeds allow me to find truly interesting content with only a few clicks. Interesting things that I find myself talking about with my wife and friends later in the day, such as a change in relationship status of one my wife’s brothers today (good news).

At this point, I see college students refreshing Facebook on commercial breaks while watching TV. This puts their attention at around 3:1 in favor of TV. But if you forced them to choose between Facebook and TV I’m sure a large percentage of them would choose their friends (Facebook) over their shows.

As Facebook user’s networks grow, just keeping up with changes becomes a big time commitment. But it’s a commitment people are willing to make since it’s extraordinarily interesting content. Eventually, something has to give, and I think it will be time spent watching commercial TV.

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