The other night, after the kids went to bed, I sat down on the couch intending to watch some television. It used to be that after the kids went to bed, I sat down on the couch to write a post, but lately things have gone in a different direction.
My hand reached for the remote, but instead picked up my smart phone. Oh, well, I figured. I’ll just play a few games of Draw Something.
A few games turned into a few more and after an hour passed I realized that it was too late to watch anything on television, much less start writing a post.
Oh, well, I consoled myself, at least I played a fun game with some good friends.
But that didn’t sound right either. I hadn’t actually played a game with any of my friends. In fact, in all likelihood, my friends probably weren’t even online while I was taking my turn. And this is completely discarding the fact that I considered spending time playing a game online spending time with friends.
How in the world did things get so fucked up?
Last week, I was at a conference where I had the privilege of seeing Clay Shirky deliver a keynote address. It was an inspiring talk and one of the things he pointed out was that some of the greatest things we’ve built on the Internet were done by people who were not employees of the site they contributed to – in fact, most of the most incredible things on the Internet were built by people in their spare time.
He used Wikipedia to demonstrate, as it’s the most obvious example. After some “back of the napkin math, but in the right order of magnitude” as he said, he figured it took 100 million man hours over 10 years to build Wikipedia. Sounds impressive, no?
So he compared that number to something else people do with their spare time: watch television. Once again he did the math and determined that we could build another Wikipedia in the same amount of time Americans spend watching television commercials. In one weekend.
And I whittle away my time playing Draw Something.
Now I’m not saying I should spend every spare moment creating something great and meaningful, but man, the amount of time I waste on games and dicking around the Internet, it’s insane.
I could be reading, or even watching TV. I know, I know, it’s television, but I get real pleasure out of watching great writing come alive on screen. I don’t watch nearly as much as I used to, but it is an art form, and I appreciate it as such. Plus, it’s a great way to just shrug off the ickiness from a bad day.
And of course, I could be writing. I should be writing. I have 2 distinct projects I should be working on, but I’m not. All my spare time is being sucked up by less important things. But easier things.
It’s easy to spend some time on Facebook, interact with a few people, and feel I’ve spent quality time with friends. But when’s the last time I went out for coffee, dinner or a even a drink with a friend? Hell, I barely even talk to them on the phone anymore.
It’s convenient. We all have such busy lives now, that it’s often impossible to connect at the same time. Varying bedtime routines, work schedules and general lifestyles interfere with being able to simply pick up the phone and call. So we text. Or leaves posts on each other’s wall. Or take the 5 minutes to write an email.
But is that really connecting?
Or are we just wasting our time?