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Killing Time

Killing Time

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”  –Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” Walden, 1854

Our time is our life.  How we spend the hours of our days is the truest measure of what we create, what we value and how we invest our life energy.  This is why the recent statistics regarding the social takeover of Internet gaming and social media should give us pause for wonder and concern. Facebook, the leader in social media, reportedly consumes over eight billion minutes of time for its collected membership every single day. It is hard to imagine what that amount of time represents, so I recalculated it in terms of years.  Each and every day we give Facebook what equates to more than 15,000 years of our collective human attention. Gaming statistics are equally disturbing, Angry Birds, one of the most popular web games of all time, has been downloaded 300 million times and is expected to hit one billion downloads. Every hour of every day, we collectively give this game 200 million minutes, or 16 years of our attention. While individually these statistics break down to 20 to 60 minutes, the equation for each of us is more complex than the math. We look to our Internet applications to fill us, to calm us, to entertain us, to connect us in a virtual world, but they somehow also leave us increasingly lonely.

Without waxing nostalgic about the days before our lives became dominated by our current technology diversions, it is worth speculating about what has been lost and replaced.  Before the mini screens, we watched television and went to movies. Prior to iPods, there were stereos and Walkmen. Before posting a status online was imagined, people spent many more of their hours in face-to-face social situations watching, listening and sharing all the things we can now do on a hand-held screen. We were forced to connect in 3D because that was all there was. Work, both paid and unpaid were contexts for relationships. We lived within a network of familiar faces that recognized us and shaped our daily routines.

Before the digital games, we played in real time, against real opponents who had a heartbeat. We planned our days around games that used our whole bodies and to which we applied our full attention. We moved real objects through space and time together.  Our play had a natural rhythm with a beginning, middle and end.  It was what we looked forward to on waking and became the stuff of our life memory.  This kind of real play is fundamentally a different activity that truly connects, entertains and fills us, unlike the ambivalent and compulsive screen time today, which is often more a compulsion than a planned excursion. Today’s empty, time-sucking gaming does not hold a candle to the way we used to play with intention, because they are designed expressly to distract us from the real time events of our lives.

Technology and all of its bells and whistles has its place. I have connected with people I haven’t seen in years on Facebook and met other interesting people in my field of work that I may likely have never known.  I communicate with my high school student club members and I hear about birthdays. I play my son’s and their friends on Words with Friends, which helps me, keep my mind strong. I write and think out loud on my Apple devices.  I would never argue for the disappearance of technology, but I do think we should begin considering using technology, rather than being controlled by it.

Because what is lost at the core of all the time consecrated to our various Internet addictions is the power of our attention.  It is the single most significant aspect of our life force that is required for learning, for loving, for connecting to anyone or anything.   Real relationships like real games are built first on our intention and are nourished by time.  You can’t hurry a game or rush the development of a relationship; these threads of connection are sewn moment by moment every time we bring our whole attention to the person or activity in front of you.  This is why “time stands still” when you are fully present to where you are and who you are with.

The time we have taken out of our real lives and offered up to the multi-billion dollar Internet consortium of distraction is ours for the retrieval.  Even sitting in silent reverie, or re-learning the art of wondering will surprise you with a payback that another round of Angry Birds will never match. Recognize the golden potential of your attention as the vehicle to spending the most valuable resource you have in this life, your time. Choose wisely.  Love someone in real time.  It is worth at least a thousand years of Facebook time.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


+ add your own
8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Just what is Jane B. smoking?

No caterpillar has ever followed me home. A fisher maybe but no ...pillars!

The only angry birds I know are birds waiting for the feeder to be filled.

Interesting article, time is what you make it, can be your friend or foe or both. Eventually we often run out of it!

8:35PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Life is about choices, to each their own

6:19AM PDT on Apr 24, 2012

Fantastic article, and very necessary for everyone these days to read! Thanks for sharing, it's so worrying that all that ridiculous amount of time spent on gaming and Facebook can actually be spent on so many other things that require our attention...

2:58AM PDT on Apr 23, 2012


11:22PM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

As I'm spending time reading this on the internet... ;)

7:23PM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

I need more time to see how I am wasting my time.

10:45AM PDT on Apr 22, 2012


4:04AM PDT on Apr 22, 2012


10:39PM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

Hahahahaha, killing time IS a form of murder but I think it's second degree.

9:39PM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

Isn't killing time a form of murder?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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