When I was a kid, the concern was that we spent too much time watching TV. So you’d think that we’d all be excited that kids are now watching less TV. Nope. Now we’re concerned about how much time they spend online. I wonder what my grandkids are going to spend too much time on?
A new study looks at the “opportunity cost” of using your computer during your leisure time. In other words, we all know that browsing the internet when you’re supposed to be working or studying is probably a bad idea. But what are the costs of doing so in your free time?
A few things from the study jumped out at me. First, Americans have five hours of leisure time every day. Given how much we complain about being too busy and overworked, that’s a significant amount of time. And a widely cited study from a few years ago confirms that data. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Americans have more leisure time than we used to.
Second, our biggest concern about online leisure is that it’s interfering with our offline leisure. Don’t you hate it when you spend so much time on Facebook that you can’t watch as much TV as you used to? But wait, we can do those at the same time. Double leisure!
Third, the study claims that we only spend 13 minutes of that 5 hours on computer leisure. Given other studies reporting that we spend almost 7 hours per month on social media alone, that figure seemed way too low to me. But it’s entirely possible that we do a lot of our online leisuring when we’re at work. After all, we wouldn’t want our online leisure to interfere with our offline leisure more than it already is.
No matter how we slice it, the study is a good reminder that every activity comes with “opportunity costs,” even when we’re just doing it on our free time.