According to the USC Marshall School of Business’ “How Much Media? 2013 Report on American Consumers,” it is estimated that the average American will consume 15.5 hours of media per day in 2015, and the total amount of U.S. consumption adds up to more than 1.7 trillion hours throughout the entire year.
The report, produced by the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the Marshall School and CTM visiting researcher James E. Short, said that the amount of data delivered to the United States annually will surpass 8.75 zettabytes, or approximately 74 gigabytes of data per person per day.
In other words, the average consumer will receive approximately nine DVDs worth of data daily in and out of the home, excluding media consumed in the workplace.
“As a society, media just dominates how we get our news, how we communicate, everything,” said Vanessa Wilkins, a junior majoring in print and digital journalism who is also a staff reporter for the Daily Trojan.
In the study, Short analyzed publicly released data in more than 30 different categories, including traditional media such as television and radio as well as new digital media such as tablet computers, mobile gaming devices and smartphones.
The report explored the use of these media categories from 2008 to 2015, calculating exposure to the media measured in time, and data flow measured in bytes.
But the time and amount of media that consumers pay attention to and comprehend is more difficult to measure, Short said. The number of hours is also much smaller.
“If you added up the amount of time people are requesting media service, like turning on the TV, plus the time for delivery of that service, like turning on my computer, not whether people are actually using them, you get the 15.5 hours,” Short said.
From 2008 to 2012, the study reported that hours of requested media service grew 5 percent each year as a result of both an increase in population and an increase in the average individual’s daily media intake from 11 hours to 14 hours.
“The takeaway from these numbers is the fact that these devices are just becoming much more capable,” Short said. “So the amount of media flow that people are going to be presented with for the amount of time will be much greater.”
Mobile computers are the most rapidly growing segment in media bytes, accounting for approximately 3 percent of all bytes in 2008 and almost 10 percent in 2013.
Catherine von Handorff, a senior majoring in English, said she is guilty of contributing to this increase.
“The media I consume the most would be articles on my computer. I always end up opening too many tabs,” von Handorff said. “The other night I had over 80 tabs open.”
But there are many concerns regarding the deeper impact of high consumption rates. Some believe reliance on media can hinder a person’s social skills.
“In some aspects [media is problematic] chiefly because it limits our face-to-face interactions.,” von Handorff said. “You can also say that the media that we consume does shape us, but I think it limits us.”
Others were concerned about how these high rates of media usage affect Americans’ physical health.
“We’re spending more time in solitary or a confined spot, instead of going out and experiencing nature, I guess,” said Veronica Cavazos, a senior majoring in psychology. “[Media consumption] should be decreased.”
Short said he sees the transformation of technology as an opportunity.
“We’re leading our communications revolution with technologies,” Short said. “The social institutions that come about follow the technology. We’re at an important transition point where we can begin to use these technologies in a way that will be new.”