Marolt: It wasn’t really wasted time
No doubt you have heard the news or, more accurately, read about it on your smartphone: Americans are using their phones, tablets, flat-screen televisions and radios and playing video games an average of 10 hours, 39 minutes every day. These figures do not include the time we spend texting and sending selfies, so the actual time-suck is probably more like 11 hours per day. The old boob tube and landline never looked so innocuous. What were our parents worried about? Apparently they just had more time on their hands and didn’t know what else to do with it.
I mean, you add this to the eight hours of recommended sleep we’re supposed to be getting, a couple of hours a day for meals, an hour or so for hygiene, an hour for commuting, an hour for exercise and then an eight-hour workday and it all adds up to — what the heck? We’re actually busy 32/7! Or, to put it another way, we’re giving it 133.33 percent. What do you know? There actually aren’t enough hours in the day!
What is more astounding is that our average use of these media devices has increased by nearly one entire hour over the course of one single year! Thirty-seven minutes of that was eaten by smartphones and another 12 by tablet computers. The situation is getting more intense, not evening out.
Lots of people are looking at these numbers, shaking their heads and saying, “This is too much. Something’s got to give.” Not me. It looks to me like something has already given. I just want to know what it is.
What the heck did we used to spend all of our time on? Just 15 years ago, my phone didn’t know how to text and couldn’t access the internet, and the camera was impossible to use. I got about three emails a day on my computer at work and had a dial-up connection to the internet at home that vastly reduced its entertainment value. Netflix amounted to ordering movies on DVD that were sent to you by regular mail, and so binge watching was two movies a week. There was no Apple TV. There was no satellite radio. Video games were just plain offensively stupid, which is the one thing that has remained the same.
Now, I know that I am not immune to wasting time on trivial things. Even back in Y2K when I was young and full of energy and desire to explore the world and discover all the incredible marvels and secrets she offered to anyone with even a modicum of gumption to seek them out, I spent plenty of time on the sofa watching ballgames and uninspired half-hour television dramas and sitcoms. I also admit to listening to the radio and my CD collection fairly often with my eyes closed and head on a pillow. But, my gosh, there is no way I spent 11 hours a day doing that. I’ll cop to three, maybe four. So, what did I do with the other eight?
This question drove me crazy last week. If I indeed had those extra eight hours a day that I twitter away now and can’t remember what I did with them, then what was the point? Obviously I didn’t do anything memorable.
I wasn’t ready to accept this premise, so I blamed it on early-onset dementia. Of course I did wonderful things with all that extra time back then. The times were so incredible, in fact, that I overloaded my brain with stimulating information, never-before-comprehended sights and ideas, and conversations with interesting people who would change the world. I did not waste that time!
But I needed to rediscover these priceless memories of what I had done, and so I turned to the one source that is all-knowing and could reveal what I could no longer grasp. I Googled the great question that vexed me.
Google told me that, when Steve Jobs was still a barefoot hippie, I spent more time enjoying longer home-cooked meals over the dinner table with my wife and children, all of us completely engaged and undistracted. It said I spent more time holding my wife’s hand on long evening walks around the park. It said I fixed more things around the house and was a proud craftsman, not by profession but by choice. I had hobbies. I exercised more and ate less processed food. I treated my dog more as a pal than a status symbol.
It all sounded so lovely. I had a good life.
Roger Marolt wonders what people did when they didn’t have an app to track it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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