For hundreds of years people have found ways to entertain themselves in their free time. Unfortunately, these forms of entertainment quickly became a crutch for society. For example, alcohol became a crutch during the early part of the Industrial Revolution. Today, television is a crutch that is decreasing the quality of life in millions of Americans and eating up free time at an alarming rate.
The Impact of Television on American Households
According to statistics collected by Norman Herr, Ph.D., a professor of science education at California State University, Northridge, Americans watch over four hours of television every day. This amounts to nine solid years of watching television by the time a person reaches the age of 65. Many people report watching television passively, meaning that they are not really aware of how much time they are spending in front of the television and they typically do not remember much of what they watch. This type of television watching highlights the crutch that television has become for society.
Television has been blamed for everything from obesity to violence. Studies have successfully linked time spent in front of the television to a more sedentary lifestyle. The statistics compiled in the California State University, Northridge report show that children are exposed to an average of 8,000 murders on television by the time they finish elementary school and 200,000 acts of violence by the time they reach the age of 18. Television has quickly transformed from a quick, efficient way to transmit news and information to a social crutch that is used too often in too many households.
While television is still prominent in American households, it is slowly being replaced by a different kind of media. The advent of the Internet and the introduction of social media has been transitioning Americans from the use of television as a crutch to the use of the Internet and social media as a crutch.
Social Media: The New Pastime
Television is starting to lose its grip on Americans, and the reason for an increasing lack of interest is social media. Social Media Examiner reports that the average American spends just over six hours every month using social media. This six hours accounts for 22 percent of all time spent online. Keep in mind that 75 percent of households in the United States use social media while 99 percent watch television. While the average American spends about six hours on social media every month, the average American that utilizes social media on a regular basis spends much more time using it.
The Positive Impact of Social Media
Is spending time on social media a bad thing? While it’s important not to spend too much time in front of a computer, it is likely that social media is a better way to spend free time than watching television. One reason is the fact that a person spends time connecting with other people on social media. Watching television is a completely passive activity that does not involve social interaction and usually does not help the viewer learn anything valuable.
ProCon.org notes that over 60 million Americans have reported receiving help with a life problem by using social media. Social networks allow people to get the word out when help is needed with anything from finding a new car to raising money for a family member suffering from a major medical emergency.
The Negative Impact of Social Media
One disturbing trend that has been noticed in association with the rise of social media is the lack of face-to-face interaction in today’s youth. Many children who would have gone outside or over to a friend’s house to play now spend their time in front of a computer talking to the friends that they could be interacting with in person.
Use of social media doesn’t just hurt the person that is using it. Studies have shown that use of social media during work hours has accounted for billions of dollars of waste for companies in the United States. PayScale has found that the average employee wastes at least 30 minutes per day at work because of social media and web surfing. Depending on the salary of the employee, this can add up to thousands of dollars every year that employers are paying for wasted time. While television is something people went home and watched after work, the widespread use of computers and Internet access at work lets people waste time on social media websites while on the clock. Some companies have reduced this possibility by blocking social media websites, but many people have access to social media on their personal cell phones.
The bottom line is that anything a person does during their free time should be done in moderation. Moderation is the key to avoid having a pastime turn into a crutch. As television becomes less prominent in American households and the Internet is the main source of entertainment, people should make an effort to limit both television and Internet time to avoid the negative affects of either of these hobbies. When watching television, make an effort to choose a few shows per week that are of real interest and limit television watching time to these shows. Social media can be used to help connect to other people, but make sure to regularly plan to spend time with friends and family in person. Free time is a limited resource for people, and it is important to use it wisely. However, when it comes to sharing information using social media and creating shared information resources can we really call it free time?