(Written Nov. 6, 2016)
Peace at last— but not for long. The campaigning for this election started something like 560 days ago with an astronomical amount spent in the Presidential race alone, which as early as April was “a 10-figure affair,” according to the Center for Public Integrity. That’s 10 figures, as in billions. You can also chalk up a couple of billion for congressional campaigns.
I’m sending in this column Tuesday morning before I head off to vote myself, so that’s all I’m going to say about this nastiness we’ve been enduring for so long. Let’s hope lessons have been learned from almost two years of this and we’ve got all this anger and frustration out of our systems.
Having commented on this strange and disturbing journey we’ve taken together, I will proceed to my chosen topic— a four-letter word we hear too often. It’s not “vote.” It’s “busy.” We are all so busy. In a world where everything is geared to saving time, you’d think we’d have plenty more of it on our hands. That brings up a question: If you have time on your hands, is it on your side? Never mind.
Just think of all the things we don’t have to do now that we had to do not so many years ago. I know that in my past profession as reporter, the digital age brought in so many time saving measures in gathering information, processing it and getting it to the press (and the newspaper’s websites). And yet we were busier than ever.
What about all the time we save by not having to leave the house to go shopping? Everybody seems to be buying on line. Well, almost everybody, because retail statisticians report that about 70 percent of Americans shop on line at least once a month and more than a third of us on a weekly basis. I guess that means we all have a lot more time to get things done around the house. The answer is we probably would if we weren’t so busy. A Bureau of Labor Statistics time study of employed people between 25 and 54 say they devote 8.9 hours to work and related activities and about an hour a day to household activities.
So what are we busy doing those other 14 hours? Well, we are apparently very busy entertaining ourselves or keeping our kids enterained. Mostly, we are watching television, especially the middle-aged and elderly. People are binging on Netflix or Hulu.
We are also using that extra time to inform ourselves, it seems, but are our smartphones making us smarter? Probably not, but they are making us busier. A study by Mobileinsurance.com revealed that the average American spends 23 days of every year (90 minutes a day) looking at his or her smartphone texting, checking email or following social media. That translates to 3.9 years of the average person’s life, and that figure can only grow.
Virtual reality has become reality, and although hailed as a tremendous time saver, it also qualifies as our greatest time waster. So who’s to say when you cross the line between saving and wasting time? All I know is that everywhere you go people are absorbed in their phones. Couples sit in restaurants, mesmerized by their respective devices and ignoring each other. Children and adults walk around like zombies, staring at their little screens or texting away. If we miss a text or email the second it arrives, it could wreak havoc on our lives.
Also known as the mobile phone, giving us more mobility and easier access to making and receiving phone calls, it turns out that talking on the phone is sixth on the list of the most utilized functions. It trails, among other things, gaming, social media and messaging. Talking on phone would mean personal contact (well almost) and we’re too busy for that.
The truth is that we spend more time at recreational and leisure activities than anything else. And you’ve got to count sleeping and napping with that. That means we are mostly busy at relaxing or amusing ourselves. Watching television is still the most popular leisure activity of all age groups, not counting sleeping, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in a 2015 study. People 75 and older watch twice as much television as those 15-18, but they also read for more than an hour a day. The younger age group, according to the same source, reads an average of six minutes a day— unless you include reading text messages.
The more you analyze what people do with their time, the harder it is to understand why they are so busy, busy, busy.