The purpose and ideal of technology is to save time, but saving time does not necessarily give us more free time. In fact, in some cases it has created more work for us. While in the past useful technological tools such as water mills helped to save people both time and efforts, technology today has created a burden of work. Our use of technology has only created new work, and more of that work requires more technology. Modern technical knowledge offers plenty of opportunities, but today people have less free time rather than more. A review of the history of technology puts this into perspective.
Leisure time and technology in historical perspective
Poser (2011) describes leisure time as that free time that allows a person to do what they please, including recreation, relaxation, enjoyable activities, self-improvement or time with friends and loved ones. Since the beginning of the industrial age, free time and technology have become interrelated in several ways. On one hand there are new technologies which are customized solely for the purpose of leisure time activities, such as the turntable, invented in the 1940s, which allows people to use their unspoken for time to “achieve unusual sound activities” (Poser, 2011, np). On the other hand the very age of industry that has given rise to industry and technology has also shaped our time in terms of work, manufacturing and expectations that have dramatically reduced the free time that we have available.
Emerging technologies that have saved time
Over a long period of time human beings began been creating successive technological tools including instruments and machines that result in savings of effort and work, but not time. Technological innovations such as the railway and motorcycle have allowed people to send products farther and faster and to arrive at destinations in less time (Poser, 2011). Transportation involved a major effort in the past, but instead of advancements resulting in increased free time they have resulted in expectations that we will go further, faster and more often.
How technology today interferes with leisure time
While technology is meant, at least in part, to help reduce the efforts needed and therefore to create more free time, it is clear this has not been the case. Railways and motorcycles simply created expectations that the existing work would be done faster, and this resulted in raised standards of productivity. More gets done, but the same amount of time or more is needed to do so. Today’s technology eats into our free time in new ways, particularly because of the addictive quality of some innovations. This creates situations where we overuse technology and use up time, even though it is not in fact increasing our productivity. Research has suggested that the Internet, and new forms of dependence on or addiction to the Internet, is responsible for this phenomenon (Sample, 2014). According to Sample, individuals who suffer from Internet addiction spend a significant amount of free time browsing through web pages, consuming their leisure time. The overuse of modern technology in this way has also promoted reduced productivity by increasing distraction, anxiety, and stress. According to Michigan State University researchers, workers who continuously checked their devices for work purposes after nine in the evening were less engaged and more tired when performing their actual work tasks the following day (Sample, 2014). By lowering productivity and efficiency, a person’s free time is further reduced due to these technologies.
While modern technical knowledge provides people with many opportunities to save time, it has also resulted in greater expectations regarding the need to use, and overuse those technological innovations. There have been technological improvements in the past which saved significant time and effort, but that is not the case today due to new technologies which consume our free time and even lower our productive output.
- Poser, S. (2011). Leisure time and technology. European History Online. Retrieved from: http://d-nb.info/103188825X/34