Thursday, October 11, 2012

The valuation of time

Recently I have been wondering if the way people perceive a time investment is changing on a global scale.  In particular I consider the following scenario:  Somebody invites me to travel somewhere for an event and I don't want to go simply because I could do so many other things instead of commute.  If I am going to spend an hour getting somewhere, an hour getting back, and two hours at the event then the event had better be pretty damn good.  Instead of two hours spent on annoying travelling I could be killing internet monsters and taking their stuff so the two hour event needs to be a *lot* better than killing internet monsters to make up for how much worse the travelling is.

I know I think this way.  (I don't claim people should think this way, just that I do.)  What I don't know is if this sort of thinking has become more widespread as connectivity in our society increases.  I know that when I consider the people in my life that are significantly older than me I notice that they spend a lot more time travelling to places than I would ever consider doing and they put a lot more emphasis on goals over journeys than I do.  I spend a lot of time considering and evaluating each part of an activity including all of the set up and arrangements.  I don't use placemats because although placemats may look nice they need cleaning and washing and fussing over and overall I deem the benefits not worth it.  I could be spending that time levelling up!

When I read about what was considered the norm for housework 60 years ago my eyes just bug out of my head.  Cleaning windowsills monthly?  Dusting weekly?  Sweeping daily?  Are you off of your trolley?  I like a clean house but I can keep it looking entirely presentable with a pretty small amount of effort and I cannot fathom how I would spend thirty five hours a week cleaning.  Sure, a condo is way less work than a house but it isn't one tenth as much work.  I can't help but wonder if these norms were at least in part due to people valuing their time much less.  If you don't have anything interesting to do then it makes sense to clean the house more but when there are people who are wrong on the internet I can't see how cleaning the windowsills (again) is going to happen.  Facebook, email, forum wars, and video games all suck people's time away.

So is it just me?  Am I the only one who chafes at the idea of wasting time in traffic to the extent that I don't want to do anything?  It isn't the events themselves which are stopping me; this isn't an introvert thing.  When somebody wants to go to a movie at the theatre one block away I don't mind going because nearly all the time spent is going to be fun.  What I can't comfortably do is ignore the setup time for doing things that are far away or require lots of other prep.  What I don't see is people in previous generations doing that same math and arriving at the same conclusions and I suspect, but clearly can't prove, that it is due to the ubiquitous distractions that the internet provides.

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