Scrolling Facebook all the time is keeping you from a wealth of knowledge

Scrolling Facebook all the time is keeping you from a wealth of knowledge

CultureNovember 30, 2016 By Barret Black

It’s called an opportunity cost, and it’s where something could potentially be gained later if an alternative choice is picked now. You might be really hungry come 2 p.m. tomorrow, but you also really want to have gas in the tank for the weekend.

Starve now to stay mobile. It’s like that.

And it’s no secret that younger demographics are spending a boatload of time online. Some experts tack it at around 3 hours a day, while others miraculously estimate it to be around 18. Regardless, it’s a lot. And it’s time wasted that could have been used for more enriching things in life. Like reading books.

Just how many is staggering. In 2013, Lifehack found that the average Internet user processes over 285 pieces of content daily stretched between multiple social platforms. That’s chosen from the roughly 443 minutes of video and 54,000 words dumped on an average user per 24-hour stretch.

In their approximation, that’s 4 Star Wars movies and close to the length of the average novel chucked at your head each day.

But that was 2013, and consumer tastes for content since then has grown. Earlier this year, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the average time a user spends on his site (actively) is around 50 minutes (up from 40 minutes just 2 years ago). That’s an outrageous amount of time consumed by social voyeurism when compared with other daily activities we have that are more important.

Take for instance eating and drinking — literally the two most viable things a person needs to survive behind Netflix and petting strange dogs. Nourishment consumes a little over an hour each day. And exercising? 17 minutes. How about social events? A mere 4 minutes, on average.

So we’re using 50 minutes of our time each day to do what? To scroll past updates on everyone else’s life but our own.

Gina from homeroom 1999 just got married. Great.
Brad from that one night at the bowling alley still goes to the gym. Awesome.
A celebrity broke up with another celebrity. Really?
Your ex is still hot but also now fat. K.

Are any of these that fulfilling? At all? Can you take that knowledge of what Brad is doing with his pecs and apply it somehow to your own life, bettering the future? Unlikely.

But hobbies and overall knowledge of the world around you does improve the quality of being. Chomsky, Kerouac, Rand, Marx, Hemingway, Angelou — they’ve all written historical ‘posts’ that alter your perception of the planet in remarkable ways. It’s why they’re famous, considered influential and cornerstones of intellectual culture.

The average reader can take in about 200 words per minute. George R.R. Martin’s famous series that HBO’s Game of Thrones is based off of has an opening installment containing 298,000 words. Do the math: It takes about 25 hours to read from cover to cover. Without Facebook (or simply substituting the time you’d spend scrolling with reading), it would take about a month to get through it, half a year to get through the entire series.

Keep in mind, R.R. Martin’s fantasy series consists of larger than average books. Per Amazon’s Text Stats feature, the average word count for a novel is 64,531. Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is around 90,000. William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” is close to the median, at 62,481.

L. Ron Hubbard’s “Mission Earth”? 1.2 million.

Social media is useful, it connects people with the rest of the world and could very well be an important part of our lives to direct information everyone needs in a timely manner. But that hasn’t happened yet, and there’s really no argument to the contrary. It’s a time suck.

Maybe giving it up altogether isn’t realistic, after all, connecting with peers is a healthy thing to do and there’s no better way to connect with what’s happening in the world than to jump online and keep up to date with respected sources. It’s ingrained in our culture, best not to push it away entirely.

But there’s good stuff out there being forgotten. Masters of thought have answers already written down for us to consume. They’ve made it pretty easy on us, given we choose to take the time. One book a month, two books a month — it adds up, and gives you a perspective on the planet like nothing else can.

This post? It finishes off at 743 words — just think of all the opportunities lost.