It wasn’t so long ago…
You wanted to talk to someone down the hall, so, rather than tweeting, IMing or e-mailing, you got up off your butt, walked to their office and, stay with me, you actually stood in front of them and had a conversation. A real live, eyeball to eyeball, face to face, mannerism-twitching, body-language-revealing conversation.
God bless technology…
It’s made it so that we don’t have to move more than a mouse-click to share our message. All this has been great for productivity (not too great for stress and expectations) and allowed us to talk to people all over the world all day and night, even when they’re just down the hall.
But what about our asses?
Advancements in communications technology has slowly, but surely, removed the need to move our bodies beyond the occasional head-fake to scan one of the three monitors that keep us humming along at maximum productivity, but minimal exertion. Multiply out the effect over a period of years and we start to come up with some pretty frightening conclusions.
How fat is communication technology making us?
I began to do some calculations and here’s what I came up with:
E-mail: Over the last 4 years, I’ve sent 13,537 e-mails, that’s about 3,384 e-mails per year. Scanning the subject-lines, I’d estimate about 25% of those replaced conversations that’d would’ve been face to face, before e-mail (yes, there was a time where people didn’t e-mail).
That’s 846 conversations I had sitting in front of my screen, rather than getting up and walking somewhere. At 10-minutes per conversation, that’s 8,460 minutes I spent sitting in front of my computer or 141 hours a year.
Twitter/IM: Though I barely ever use IM, I’ve become a recent Twitter-addict. I tweeted about 400 times in the last month and, at 10 seconds each to compose, that’s 4,000 seconds a month times 12 months, that comes out to 48,000 seconds a year or about 13 hours. And, honesty almost all of those conversations would never have been had face to face.
So, between twitter and e-mail, I spend about an extra 154 hours a year in front of my screen, instead of having live conversations.
Now, here’e where it gets really interesting.
Recent studies have shown that the more screen time we have, the more weight we gain. At first, the theory was that we were replacing active-time with screen time and burning fewer calories. But, research now shows that not to be the case. Because, we tend to replace screen time with some other form of passive entertainment, like reading, so we’re not really burning more calories.
Then, why do we we get fatter with more screen time?
It seems the answer is screen-time eating habits. When we’re in front of a screen, we tend to eat less consciously, we eat more food as we graze for hours (witness the giant bag of chips that mysteriously vanishes during a heaving online session) and we consume foods that are worse for us
So, what’s the answer?
Well, these days, it’s unlikely that many of us will be pulling back from screen time, especially since more and more of it is being spent tapping communication technology that allows us to stay connected with our virtual friends.
A better approach might be to make a more conscious effort not to graze so much or to keep healthier, less caloric snacks around so that we can satisfy our screen-time grazing jones with baby carrots, rather than Red Bull and bonbons.
So, what do you guys think?
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