A survey by Nielsen has found that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are now proving more popular with web users than personal email.

In the UK alone, Nielsen found that 1 in every 6 minutes a web user is online, is spent on a social networking site, with Facebook unsurprisingly leading the pack with the highest average time per user.

This figure was drawn from the fact that 66.8% of people logging on to the net head over to one of the social networking or blog sites, while only 65.1% visit a web email site.

The report said that interest in the social networking category has grown four times faster than the other top four sectors, not surprising when you consider the number of Britons checking a social site via their phone has gone up 249%.

"Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience", said John Burbank, chief executive of Nielsen Online.

"Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large".

Nielsen researchers also uncovered a growing trend for older users to log on to social networking sites.

Almost a quarter of Facebook's users are now known to be over 50, with the fastest growing segment of users using social sites over the last year noted as those between 35 and 49 years old.