You’d be hard pressed to find a working adult who doesn’t feel busy and stressed and like free time is a thing that our grandparents used to have. We think fondly of the days when people had nothing better to do than sit on their front porch sipping tea and talking about the neighbors, contemplating the weather or talking to the dog at their feet.
But are we really more busy now?
Maybe. And NYU psychologist Adam Alter has an idea about why.
At the 2017 TED conference, he presented three bar graphs comparing how people spent their workdays in 2007, 2015, and 2017. He used Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the app Moment to track smartphone use to put together the charts.
They show that, no matter the year, sleep and work take up roughly 2/3 of people’s days, and found similar results for survival activities like bathing and eating. But the remaining “free” time? Those few, precious hours we have to do the things that make us individuals?
In 2007, screens took up only minutes of that time. Now? Practically all of our free time is sacrificed on the screen altar.
Like Alter says, our free time is “where the magic happens…where your humanity lives, and right now it’s in a very small box.”
He’s urging people to rethink their attachment to their devices, which, while they do connect people, also lead to distraction and feelings of isolation, even in a room full of family and friends.
Don’t chuck it all, just work on a balance – block social media for certain times of the day or put your phones on the charger and leave them there before bed.
Spend the time you have wisely, and don’t forget how to be with the humans in the room.