Which generation rules the Internet? Conventional wisdom has it that the Millennials are the most connected cohort in history. The only problem is that the conventional wisdom may not be true. 

The inter-generational habits of Internet denizens have been revealed in a numbers-rich infographic posted this week, which reveals that among Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennial generations, it’s the GenXers that spend more time online and produce more data than their children and their parents. (More analysis below the infographic…)

Wikibon‘s infographic pulls together a rich collection of stats, including the total data footprints of the three generations. Generation X leads the way, consuming 59.6GB of data per month, with Millennials close behind at 54.GB and Baby Boomers trailing with 44.8GBb.

TV vs. Work

Wikibon is not just counting computer and mobile surfing habits in its estimates… it’s also added television watching to the tally. While Baby Boomers watch more traditional television than do the other two generations, the combination of traditional and online viewing still pushes the GenXers over the top for the video viewing data footprint.

Generation X, defined as those born between 1965-1983, also has a higher percentage of desktop computer owners and spends more time online. But their Millennial kids, born 1984-2002, have a higher percentage of Internet users, and dominate the mobile surfing habits.

One reason why Millennials have the lower footprint online than their parents is clearly the lack of television the kids are watching on TV sets (110 hours to their folks’ 145 hours). Much of their video consumption happens online, where Millenials watch nearly 23.5 hours of video a month, compared to the less than 15 hours GenXers watch online.

But even taking TV out of the equation, Generation X and even Baby Boomers spend more time surfing on computers than do the young ones. One reason may lie in device preference, because kids are much more likely to use a mobile device than a computer to surf.

Another reason may be due to work: many Millennials are still in college, or just entering the workplace, and therefore aren’t online for professional reasons as much as their parents and even their grandparents – who either haven’t retired yet or are working a part-time job.

Data Generation Is Exploding!

But perhaps the most telling stat in this infographic can be be found at the very top: from the beginning of time until 2003, humans generated 5 billion gigabytes of data. That’s 4.9 million terabytes, or 4.66 exabytes. Right now, we generate that much data every two days… and by 2014, we’ll be creating that much data every 10 minutes. You think data is big now? This is the kind of stat that gets database engineers reaching for the nearest bottle (aspirin, vodka, it doesn’t matter…).

As generations continue to adapt to new technologies and create this mega-data, their online habits could change, of course. And that evolution will remain of overwhelming interest to the marketers and entertainment companies who need to know where their intended audiences are hanging out online and what they are doing there.