Not counting quality time with your family, what do you do in your spare time? I’m sure for many reading this especially in the long winter evenings, spare time and the internet have become synonymous.
Over the last four or five years, with the pervasive uptake of home computers and web access, I’ve found myself spending more and more of my leisure time online – checking out forums, commenting on blogs, googling this and that, and more recently getting into RSS feeds and social networking, particularly with twitter. All this as well as trying to write the occasional blog post. That’s not even to mention gaming, stumbling, Flickr, YouTube, IM, email, Skype, streaming TV, internet radio and online shopping. In fact, I’m sure it would be possible to spend all my spare time and more online.
Okay, so any younger readers will be saying, so what, it’s always been this way. They’ve grown up in a world with computers at home, gaming and the internet. But it wasn’t always like this. Some of us can remember back to the 1960s to 1980s when the computer wasn’t the ever-present it is today. Yes I know I’ve generalized a bit here. Some of the geeks among us were using computers in the 1980s but it’s really only been since the dawn of the new millennium that computers have reached into virtually every home in the land.
We’ve witnessed a spare time revolution. For me, out the window have gone watching TV, reading newspapers and magazines, and writing letters in the evening. Of course watching videos has been replaced for many by DVDs, but we’re now well into this revolution where virtually all of our spare time needs can be fulfilled online. In fact with programs like BBC iPlayer, we can catch up on what we’ve missed on TV anyway.
I’ll be the first to admit that the change is for the better. Personally, in the winter evenings, I’d much rather be online than reading a paper or watching TV. But with all this gazing at flat panels, we must remember to ring-fence some of our spare time for other really important activities: getting out and getting exercise, cooking good food and perhaps most importantly, talking to our nearest and dearest.
Updated Oct 2nd 2009: Further reading: How much time do you spend in front of the screen?