Thursday, November 30, 2006

The 43-Hour Day

When I was visiting family this past weekend in Minneapolis, I caught a great story in the Star-Tribune by Neal Justin, "Swarmed by Screens." He reported on a local family whose home is stocked with 12 TV sets (for three people), a home theater unit, 6 computers, nearly 50 remote controls and a number of other electronic gadgets – and their struggles to maintain quality family time.

Justin went on to cite an OMD statistic that the average U.S. home now boasts an average of 12 technology/media devices, from big-screen TVs to video iPods, compared with 5 such devices 10 years ago. He posed the question: "Do so many screens make us smarter, savvier human beings or drooling zombies?" I probably ping-pong between those extremes.

By OMD standards, my household ranks below average with technology/media distractions: five TVs, two computers, and two Treos. But if you included my XM and Sirius subscriptions and three daily newspaper subscriptions, I'd be up there.

According to OMD, because of our penchant for doing two or more things at once, Americans now live in the age of what some call the "43-hour day" – the total time spent on various activities. More than 16 hours on average are spent on media and technology alone. In fact, more than 70 percent of consumers use multiple forms of media at the same time, according to a 2004 study by the Media Center at the American Press Institute.

A couple of months ago, Jared Sandberg (subscription required) of the Wall Street Journal contended that while multitaskers seem to be accomplishing a lot, they're not doing anything very well. He wrote that multitasking is more "rooted in blind faith than fact" and that "what now passes for multitasking was once called not paying attention."

I can relate, based on the number of times I answer "What?" to my husband, who is trying to converse with me while I'm busy answering work email in front of the TV watching the Mets game with no sound, while the radio is turned up to one of my favorite radio talk-show hosts.

And now the cell phone is ringing...

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Blogger KPC said...

Welcome, Robbin!

Wow, am I behind the times. I have one TV (for a family of four), two computers and one Blackberry. We do have two iPods, but I have the "old" iPod Mini, and my husband has a Shuffle.

Monday, December 04, 2006 4:25:00 PM  
Blogger Robbin Goodman said...

Thanks, KPC. It helps being married to a gadget-o-olic.

Monday, December 04, 2006 4:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

Robbin -- nice piece. I'm not sure whether electronic toys are the cause or the symptom of our shrinking attention span. I think its a problem that gets lots of reinforcment in our culture (I mean public relations is just one of many careers where you can parlay a short attention span into success!). 99% of American media would rather do a one hour interview with Brittany Spears than a one hour panel discussion on the Iraq War with the world's leading Middle East authorities. And we reap the consequences. Anyway, nice to see you sharing your intelligence on the blogosphere. Good luck!

Thursday, December 07, 2006 11:40:00 AM  

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