Eight Hours A Day

One of the big ideas in my life is “controlling your inputs”. What you buy, ingest, and consume ultimately determines how you look, feel, think, and act. People are, more or less, the sum of their habits. Therefore, you really want to heavily guard yourself against unwanted inputs because if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out.

A general heuristic, in a world of limited time but seemingly unlimited choice, is to either say “Hell Yes” to something, or otherwise to say no. And even things that are worth saying yes, you can overdo.

I probably think about this concept more often than most people. Yet, I often feel too busy to make time to meditate (even for just ten minutes). Or go too broke to put money into something that could be considered an investment. And even without owning a television, I find myself watching a bunch. I get lost in a maze of random stuff on the web.

Does this have a serious effect on me? Where do a portion of my thoughts, wants, and desires really come from? Even though I am perhaps more aware of it than some, am I still another product of the media? And of advertising? And then, what about other people?

One day, after going down this rabbit hole of thinking, I decided to go searching for some statistics related to media consumption. Here is what I found.

Television Consumption

The average American watches five hours of television every day.

And more for some demographics. For example, the over-65 crowd is consuming 50.5 hours a week of TV. That’s over seven hours.

Maybe you don’t even own a television. Maybe, perhaps, you watch a little NetFlix on the good old MacBook. An occasional football game at a bar?

But, what about Internet-based media – and all forms of media in general?

Total Media Consumption

So, it’s still apparent that Americans love their television, but this isn’t 1980. Consumption has obviously shifted to other forms of media. We have the Internet. And we have mobile phones that are hooked up wirelessly to the Internet.

bell pay phones

So, the more pertinent question becomes, how much media do people consume a day?

According to QZ and ZenithOptimedia, people are consuming some form of media 490 minutes a day. If you do the math – that’s over 8 hours. The average person consumes media over eight hours a day!

media consumption per day

Thinking In Digital Terms

Let’s think in digital terms:

“U.S. media consumption totaled 3.5 zettabytes, an average of 33 gigabytes per consumer per day”. Source: UCSD.

33 gigabytes day. Back in 1981, Apple sold a hard drive that stored five megabytes. It cost $3500. That’s $700,000 a gigabyte.

apple profile 5mb

Another way to put it – it would have cost $23 million to store a single day of media that the average American consumes – on these Apple hard drives in 1981. That’s $8.4 billion for the whole year.

Today, the cost per gig is under several cents. Hence, all the “cloud” services. It’s now cheap for companies to house the data. But that’s for a whole different discussion.

On one hand, this goes to show you the tremendous advances we have made – in computer storage, networking, mobile technology, and the general force of Moore’s Law.

At the end of the day however, it’s being used to move a giant tsunami of media stuff – most of it only capable of holding your attention for mere seconds at a time.


And what do we get in the forms of advertising that is embedded in all this media we consume? I wonder what sort, and how much?

nbc mad men

Here are several things I found:

  1. The number of commercials in the typical hour of television has grown steadily during the last five years – and in 2013, the amount of advertising in an hour of TV grew to 14 minutes and 15 seconds. Source: LA Times.

Let’s round slightly up to 15 minutes. If the average American watches five hours of TV, they are getting one hour and fifteen minutes of ads a day. Not to mention all the product placement in the shows.

  1. “On average, children in the United States view 15 television food advertisements every day, 98% of which are low in nutritional value, averaging out to 5,500 messages per year.” Source: Wikipedia.

That may contribute to obesity problems? I don’t know. But it can’t really help.

  1. And in 2015, Google took in $74.5 billion in revenue.

Probably from self-driving cars and Google Glass, right? Hardly.

Roughly 95 – 97% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. The reality is, Google is more of an advertising company than they are a tech company.


The average American consumes eight hours of media a day.

Eight hours a day is a third of your entire life.

Eight hours a day is half of your waking life, if you sleep the recommended amount.

That just seems to me like too much input coming from the media and advertising.

Erik August Johnson is a software developer working with JavaScript to build useful things. Follow them on Twitter.