“Technology has been a rapid heartbeat, compressing housework, travel, entertainment, squeezing more and more into the allotted span,” says social historian Theodore Zeldin.
No one expected that the result of technology would be the feeling that life moves to fast. Technology was supposed to reduce work and give more leisure time.
The effect has been just the opposite. Technology takes more time from us than it saves. The faster technology operates, the less time we have.
The pace of life has accelerated. We have sped up in an attempt match our lifestyles to the to speed of technology. “The DOOR CLOSE button in elevators, so often a placebo, with no function but to distract for a moment those riders to whom ten seconds is an eternity,” says James Gleick in his book FSTR (he has removed the vowels to convey the idea that we are in a frenzied hurry to save time).
Stress from too little time is taking it’s toll, says Statistics Canada. They followed more than 10,000 people over 6 years and found that Canadians are getting sick because they are trying to do too many things at once.
The high level of stress in men and women has led to health problems such as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, chronic bronchitis and stomach or intestinal ulcers. Men tend to get heart disease while women get asthma and migraines.
The use of TV remote controls has increased the speed of commercials and news coverage. If a commercial doesn’t grab you in a few seconds, you’re off to another channel. In 1968, politicians could expect 40 seconds to answer questions about complex issues. Now it’s less than 10 seconds. Only the superficial and glib survive.
Everyday conversations have become compacted. If someone can’t make their point in a minute, we find our remote control fingers twitching.
Leisure is not a lifestyle, it’s a business. Corporations have created the leisure industry -the term itself an oxymoron. As things speed up, we have less time to relax and the solution is to pack more intense pleasures into less time. Maximize the precious little time we have.
Now you can buy a boat or snowmobile, holiday vacation or ski weekend that packs maximum enjoyment into those moments. The speed of leisure time exceeds that of work. We want to get back to work just so that we can relax.
There is opportunity in haste. Fast food restaurants cater to our need to have food now. Marketers anticipate our frenzy with microwave ovens, quick video playback, and fast credit. A medication is marketed for women who don’t have time for a yeast infection. “As though slackers might have time for that,” says Gleick.
What are we doing with all that spare time that labour-saving devices provide? For one thing, we’re sitting in cars, especially in big cities. Cars are slowing at the same rate that waistlines are increasing. More cars on the same old highways means that everyone is going nowhere fast.
There is a solution. Urban planners could design communities where citizens could walk to work, shopping, and schools. But oil companies would protest. They prefer that we sit in our cars with engines running, regardless of whether we are going anywhere.
We have less time for sleep. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that average sleep has dropped buy 20 per cent in the last century. The result is general fatigue and exhaustion the affects productivity and health. Driver’s loss of attention results in more accidents. “Eventually, if the sleep debt becomes large enough, we become slow, clumsy, stupid and, possibly, dead,” says Canadian psychologist Stanley Coren.
We like sex but we aren’t getting much. One of the most comprehensive surveys on the subject was done in 1994 by the University of Chicago. They found that the average time devoted to sex is 4 minutes a day. You, of course, get more but remember that these are averages. This includes not only intercourse but sex-related activities such as fantasizing over sexy billboards as we sit in our traffic-jammed cars.
“Time is a gentle deity,” said Greek philosopher Sophocles. For him, maybe. These days it just cracks the whip.