Facebook Dominates, the Emergence of reddit and Hulu: Taking a Look at 4 Years of Distracting Websites at RescueTime

We’re often surprised by how little work we get done during the day even after we’ve spent several hours in front of a computer screen. In 2007, Salary.com did a survey that found Americans waste 20% of their time at work, and 34.7% of all respondents said that surfing the Internet was the biggest distraction. Over the past four years, RescueTime has been collecting anonymous data from users who have opted to share that information with us. Using that data, we’ve compiled a list of the most distracting websites from 2008 and 2011.

Top Distracting Sites 2008

The first things we noticed were Facebook’s and YouTube’s engagement numbers. In 2008, those two sites garnered respectively 14.8 and 11.3 minutes per user every day. Facebook especially has surged since then. By 2009, the average user spent 18.9 minutes per day on Facebook. By 2011, they were spending 23 minutes per day on the popular social network. That means the average person spent 58% more time on Facebook in 2011 than in 2008. By contrast, YouTube has remained relatively stable with the average time spent increasing from 11.3 minutes per day in 2008 to 11.4 minutes in 2011. However, RescueTime users have collectively spent 139,035,465 seconds on YouTube so far in 2011, placing it third only to Google Reader and Facebook. That amounts to 9,343 minutes per day watching web clips. On the other hand, RescueTime users spent 469,150,954 seconds or 781,9182 minutes per day on Facebook in 2011! This goes to show the powerful, worldwide dominance that Facebook and YouTube exert.

Top Distracting Sites 2011

Also interesting to note is the race between Digg and reddit. In 2008, Digg was the clear winner between these two news-sharing services as our users collectively spent 338 minutes per day on Digg versus 186 minutes per day at reddit. However, the average time spent per user on each site was perhaps a sign of things to come as the average reddit user spent 9.9 minutes on the site in 2008. On Digg, the average user only spent 6.1 minutes browsing the site each day. Today, Digg no longer even ranks in the top 12 most distracting sites. Reddit, though, now comes in at number 5. Even more incredible is that the average reddit user now spends 25.3 minutes there every day.

Hulu is another site that has seen a wild ride over the years. Although the site debuted in 2007, it didn’t show up in our rankings until 2009 when it shot up to be the sixth most distracting site with 15,966,181 seconds spent there by our users or 729 minutes per day. That means that on average, Hulu was distracting each user to the tune of 21 minutes every day. Yet that slipped to just 11.6 minutes on average by 2010. So far in 2011, Hulu has slipped slightly further to 11.2 minutes, but it’s still the ninth most distracting site overall.

In contrast to Hulu’s wild ride, Amazon.com has held steady. In 2009, Rescue Time users spent an average of 4.9 minutes every day either shopping or just browsing the merchandise. So far in 2011, that number has dropped just slightly to 4.4 minutes per day. What’s also interesting about this is that Amazon.com ranks at the bottom of our most distracting websites in terms of how much time we spend there per day. Social networking, news and opinion, and entertainment sites are all much more popular.

Of those three categories, social networking is the clear winner. In addition to Facebook, users spent 6.7 minutes per day at Twitter so far in 2011 for a grand total of 2742 minutes each day amongst all users. Vkontakte.ru is another popular social network destination with 27.3 minutes spent there per day by the average user for a grand total of 996 minutes each day. Factor in Facebook’s Apps community, and users spent a grand total of 31,892 minutes every day on social networks in 2011. That’s 131,820 hours or 5,492 days spent on social networks.

Taken together, these trends go to show how our interests have shifted over the years. Facebook was the most distracting site in 2008 and remains so today, but the average RescueTime user now spends 58% more time there. Digg, once popular, is now a has-been while reddit continues to garner more and more of our attention. Sites like Amazon.com remain steady while Hulu surged to popularity but now slowly fades. It’ll be interesting to see how these trends play out over the next few years.


  1. I am slightly surprised Facebook wasn’t head and shoulders above everything else. This has also showed me that I am obviously missing something so I am going straight over to reddit to figure out what I didn’t see when I first looked and dismissed it.

  2. The most amazing thing referenced in this article is the rapid decline of Digg… makes you wonder just how long Facebook’s dominance will last for. If history is anything to go by, it isn’t necessarily as assured of maintaining that top spot as most people would think.

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