It's pretty common for science majors to do research at some point in their college career, especially if you plan on continuing your education. I joined a lab led by a professor, with the option of either 6 hours or 12 hours a week. For me, my 6-hour commitment is similar to having a class - I work with my research advisor to schedule weekly lab hours that fit within my class and extracurricular schedule. It can sometimes be hard to manage depending on your course load -- my physics courses can be extremely time consuming -- so if you're feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to talk with your advisor about adjusting your time conducting research. I often have to move or cancel my lab hours if I have a major exam coming up, or am unusually bogged down with assignments.
I don't know anyone who started their freshman year doing research - usually you will get to know a professor whose research you're interested in, and ask if they have space for you or if they would be willing to mentor independent research. If you start doing this your first semester, you could manage to snag a spot for the second half of your freshman year. Otherwise, most people I know started in their 2nd or 3rd year.
When balancing your academic and social life, just remember to put yourself first and only sign up for as much as you think you can handle. As long as you manage your time wisely, you should have no problem fitting research into your class schedule and social life -- plenty of undergrads do it! With that being said, always make sure you don't spread yourself too thin - doing too much research can affect your studies, and vice versa. If I can manage a physics course load + research + extracurriculars while still having a social life (and I'm certainly not the best time-manager), so can you!! Good luck :)