According to a recent report
from the University of California, San Diego, American households consumed 3.6
zettabytes of information in 2008. A zettabyte is 10 to the 21st power bytes,
or a million million gigabytes. Put another way, Americans consumed
approximately 34GB per individual per day in 2008. The report also suggests
that the average American consumes 100,500 words in a single day.
The information we consume comes from everywhere around
us—through television, radio, billboards, the Web, text messages, video games,
etc. The study suggests that most Americans spend half of their day, or an
average of nearly 12 hours, consuming information. Four and a half of those
hours are generally spent watching TV-related content. On top of TV-related
content, most Americans spend nearly two hours a day consuming information from
a computer. Beyond the TV and computer, data consumption happens via the phone,
radio, music, and print mediums. Not all of these experiences are independent
of one another, either; many of them happen simultaneously, such as talking on
the phone while checking email or instant messaging and watching TV.
The report also found a connection between the number of
bytes we consume and the amount of time spent with video games. According to
Roger Bohn, professor of technology management and co-author of the study, “Gaming
saw the biggest leap in the number of bytes we consume and the amount of time
devoted to this platform.” In this scenario, gaming includes not only
first-person shooter games but also analytical games such as Tetris or social
While print media has seen a definite decline, the amount of
content people are reading has not been reduced. In fact, the study found if
you add up the amount of time people spend surfing the Web, Americans are
actually reading more than ever.
On average, the number of bytes we consume has increased 5.4%
per year from 1980 to 2008. If we keep progressing at this rate, it won't be
long before we're talking in yottabytes instead of zettabytes.