Leisure time is loosely time spent away from work. This can broadly include time spent drinking, texting, sleeping, singing, listening to music, writing a blog, worrying, daydreaming, cleaning, cooking, ironing, watching a movie, visiting friends/family, talking, watching television, doodling, praying, reading, playing a musical instrument, shopping, using the Internet, gardening, and so on.
For others, leisure time is skiving at work. Skiving is a term for workers who spend time meant for carrying out their employers’ business on other activities. Nigerians are no exception. For some of them skiving is a daily part of the work life. It is understandable albeit sadly as most people enjoy uninterrupted electricity and Internet access at work rather than at home. The question is what do you do in your free time? Nigerian men – it seems –spend their time between social networking sites and in their lovers’ arms. And for both men and women alike, the Blackberry’s instant messenger is a necessary tool to keep relationships and love interests alive.
A new study published by ComScore, experts in digital business analysis, revealed that social networking sites now reach 82 per cent of the world’s online population, representing 1.2 billion users around the world. Particularly telling of social networking’s emergence is the amount of time people spend on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Orkut. As a percentage of all the time people spend online, social networking activity has more than tripled in the last few years. In the United Kingdom, a recent survey revealed that people spend between 30 minutes and several hours a day on Facebook. ‘Checking in’ on Facebook several times a day on mobile devices has become a mindless chore.
In October 2011, social networking ranked as the most popular content category in worldwide engagement, accounting for 19 per cent of all time spent online. Nearly one in every five minutes spent online is now spent on social networking sites.
While penetration of social networking sites is consistently high across the globe, visitor engagement varies from country to country. In April 2011, Israel ranked highest in time spent per visitor on social networking sites, averaging 10.7 hours for the month. Russia came in second with 10.3 hours of social networking per visitor, followed by Argentina with 8.4 hours, Philippines with 7.9 hours and Turkey with 7.8 hours. The number of Nigerian Facebook subscribers increased from 400,000 to 4.3 million at the end of December 2011. Nigeria ranked third in the number of Facebook users on the African continent according to a survey on the World Internet Status website. Coming ahead of Nigeria were Egypt and South Africa with 9.4 million users and 4.8 million users respectively.
The question is what do those without access to Facebook do in their spare time?
The North American and Asian markets have fared better than African markets in the penetration of social networking sites. ComScore reports show that, “a look at individual markets shows the penetration of social networking sites, ranging from 53 per cent in China to 98 per cent in the United States, with 41 of the 43 markets individually reported by ComScore seeing a market penetration of 85 per cent or more. Regardless of how open or closed a society may be, it is safe to assume that more than half of local online populations are engaging in online social networking, making the practice comparatively ubiquitous around the world.” Women the research found, spend more time on social networking sites than men. This may be due to our proclivity to small talk. Comscore also reports: “Another interesting illustration is that consistently across all regions, women spend more time social networking than men. In North America and Europe, women spent an average of nearly two hours (30 per cent) more than men on social networking sites in a month.”
But what do people do on these social networking sites? For many, it is a place to socialise, a forum to catch up with gossip and news from family and friends. It is also the place to proffer solutions to problems and market ideological proclivities. Research has found out that Facebook can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety. Facebook has been linked to divorce rates. Nevertheless, Facebook and Twitter have globally remained leading tools for the promotion of brand names and corporate images. The latest trend in the UK is for businesses to outsource the management of their Facebook and Twitter accounts to new media professionals. Companies are realising the value of paying experts for updating their Facebook and Twitter pages with relevant information and chatting with customers.
Tina Fisher (a new media guru) is currently recruiting new companies for which she can manage their online presence on Facebook and Twitter. Fisher has successfully turned a hobby into a business. For companies, it is important that they channel the right marketing adverts to the number of people ‘liking’ their Facebook page. ‘Liking’ a business page and leaving comments provides a company with vital feedback necessary for growth and development. Hence, it is commercial suicide for a company not to have Facebook and Twitter. Many Nigerian companies have tapped into the benefits of social media. In the UK, some companies have their Facebook page manned for 12 hours every day.
Social media activities arguably can spell financial fortune or disaster to the business savvy entrepreneur. One of Nigeria’s such is Augusta Okon, a Lagos lawyer whose blog page 9aijabooksandmovies is creating waves on social networking sites. Okon started the blog because she noticed that there was an absence of material on Nigerian movies and books. She spends her spare time promoting her blog on Facebook and Twitter. It is hard work she admits, but the dividends can be rewarding. Teju Cole, American-based Nigerian and award wining novelist/writer, is another new media junkie whose love for the written word has brought him fame and perhaps even fortune. His Twitter comments small fates, has endeared him to readers across the world.
Small fates takes news reports from New York newspapers of 1912 and rewrites them in the ironic and epigrammatic style of Félix Fénéon. These are thousands and possibly even millions of Nigerians on Facebook and Twitter whose spare time habits have turned them into celebrities of sort. Twitter, another favorite for online junkies is a place where people’s voices are heard, but some are louder than others. For active updates on Nigeria, many people follow J Japheth Omojuwa with nearly 2,7000 followers, Babatunde Rosanwo with nearly 10,000 followers and Kayode Ogundamisi at nearly 20,000 followers. Followership provides useful analysis to the credibility of the tweets. A certain person landed on Cable Network News, CNN, during the Nigerian protests in January simply because of the regularity of his tweets and the number of followership. Another person was offered an internship with an American Ivy League University because of his activism on Twitter and Facebook. The bottom line is that social media is serious business. If used intelligently, your spare time can bring you into contact with the right people who can make your dreams come true.