How much of our lives will we spend walking around in a field searching for a 3G signal?
When I was a child, I became obsessed by a whole series of statistics of more or less uncertain provenance-—how long, during your lifetime, you will spend waiting at traffic lights or queuing at a shop till, and so on. The odd one didn’t bear up at all when you thought about it: how would you devise an experiment to establish how many spiders the average person swallows in his or her sleep over the course of their life? Others seemed to be plausibly rooted in fact, though, and were no less compelling.
When you’re a child, time is—or, at least seems to be—a limitless resource. Still, the idea that of one’s allotted 3-score and 10 one would spend 25 years asleep, 15 years at work, six years eating and a year on the khazi gave even my eight-year-old self pause.
Indeed, on learning that I could expect to spend a month and a half or so brushing my teeth it occurred to me that by resigning myself to poor dental hygiene I’d have weeks longer to really live—to say nothing of the consequent savings I’d almost certainly make on kissing (two weeks), having sex (four weeks) and waiting for my mercifully non-existent wife to finish using the bathroom (six years).
These lists need updating, though. In the early 1980s, the demands on our time were much simpler. There wasn’t much to do but brush your teeth, osculate, eat spiders and fill Panini sticker albums. We probably spent two or three days, in total, simply reciting catchphrases from Steve Wright in the Afternoon, or exclaiming: “Oooh, Gary Davies!” Hwær cwom?
Most, though not all, of the great time-sinks of today are down to the explosion of digital technology and—supremely—the internet. The last study I was able to find suggested we now spend five years of our life online—and most of that, if we’re honest, is spent wilfing.
You know wilfing, surely? It’s the sort of aimless, directionless, nose-following internet browsing (from WWILF—“what was I looking for?”) that leads you to know such pointless facts as how long you can expect to spend online in your life and, for that matter, what “wilfing” means. I’ve spent two hours wilfing already this morning, which…