Technology has afforded us new ways to do “down time.” Gaming, be it on a console, mobile device or PC, is one of the most frequent ways many of us spend leisure time. Of course, interacting on social media is another huge pasttime (or “time suck” some may say).
Gadgets such as Roku and Chromecast allow us to access entertainment from an unprecedented number of sources. There is even tech that helps us get mundane chores done faster. Some devices will do chores for us outright, which results in more leisure time—think the Roomba robot vacuum or the Nest thermostat that will heat or cool your home without you even needing to move from the couch.
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In an always-connected world, we can game or Facebook or use “smart” home tech such as Nest, whenever we want. Internet access is ubiquitous and always on. In fact, there is no shortage of lamenting about the kids spending too much time gaming instead of engaging in outdoor play, or how employee productivity is suffering because too much office time is spent on social media. The belief is that technology has made us into a society of selfie-taking sloths—glassy-eyed and slack-jawed with too much leisure time at our disposal.
However, the reality is that while technology has provided many new delightful ways to have fun, it may also have, in fact, reduced our down time significantly.
The Toll of Tech on Leisure Time
The flipside of being always connected to engage in tech-related pleasure pursuits is that we are also always connected to work. In a survey conducted by ThinkingPhones—a cloud communications provider—60% of those surveyed respond to work-related emails outside of their standard work hours. Even more revealing, 82% of employees have responded to work-related emails while on vacation and 53% have responded to work-related emails while in the bathroom!
CJ Johnson, who heads marketing and publicity for Buddytruk, an app that helps people move or transport something locally, was blunt in his assessment. “I actually think we are working more because there are less ways to disconnect.” Johnson feels that tech actually makes it harder to “unplug and decompress.”
Taylor Murray, a co-founder and senior developer for a cloud contact center software provider, agrees. “Our smartphone makes it possible to be always on top of work and, if that wasn’t enough, people now expect you to be available 24/7. I sometimes feel guilty when I don’t answer a call or email after work hours,” he says.
Even activities that have the guise of leisure can actually pull us into work mode. “Our Internet-enabled devices may be harnessed to research personal or professional development,” says Jenny Ungbha Korn, an award-winning race, gender, and online identity scholar. “While some individuals may be quick to call Facebooking a leisure activity, those people may overlook the digital capital inherent in Facebook’s affordance of context collapse, which conflates the divide between “work” and “personal” contacts through a general Facebook “friends” category. The person we meet online may wind up a business contact,” Korn says.
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