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It should come as no surprise that social media rules the Web.

But now we have concrete evidence. A study released by Nielsen on Monday called What Americans Do Online reveals social media dominates our online time — 23% of it to be precise. The study, which tracked 200,000 American Web users in June, also sheds some light on our day-to-day habits along with our decidedly narrow interests.

“Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40% of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities – social networking, playing games and e-mailing,” Dave Martin, a Nielsen analyst, said in the study.

Nielsen discovered Americans prefer playing Farmville and other popular online games to traditional activities like instant messaging and checking e-mail. That’s no surprise since instant messaging use is down overall and desktop e-mail use dropped from 12% last year to 8.3% of our total online time. As for the games, those took nearly 10% of our time, up from 9.3% last year.

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Nielsen data collection methods are proprietary, but if their findings on social media — a time-sucking behemoth clocking 25% of our time — signify anything, it’s that there’s an ever-growing shift in the way Americans connect, share information and stay in touch. We’re somewhat obsessive about updating our statuses—last March, 48% of those polled by a Retrevo Gadget survey admitted to updating Facebook or Twitter “during the night or as soon as they get up. And all of this shows that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter may in fact be replacing email as the de facto form of communication online. In fact, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in June that "in consumer technology, if you want to know what people like us will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today. And the latest figures say that only 11% of teenagers e-mail daily, so e-mail is probably going away. Teenagers SMS and increasingly use social networking.”

On the other hand, PC World notes that e-mail still “occupies 42% of our smartphone time in comparison to 37% last year,” but the outlook for bare-bones online communications services – those that don’t have all the bells and whistles that social networks have - likely remains grim in the mercurial world of new media.

Speaking of Facebook, Americans find no social media site does it better when it comes to posting, poking, friending and messaging. The social behemoth snared 85% of our social networking, beating MySpace (second) and Twitter (a distant third). Regardless of age, everyone from your mom, your boss and your bff are on the site these days, reminding you it’s time to get back to work.

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