It’s no secret that the majority of Americans are spending a lot of time online. While some of the time we spend on the Internet is productive, there’s a lot of it that’s not—and it’s crowding out some of our higher value offline activities, according to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
In a recent NBER study, each minute of online leisure time is correlated with 0.29 fewer minutes on all other types of leisure—with about half of that coming from time spent watching TV and video, 0.05 minutes from (offline) socializing, 0.04 minutes from relaxing and thinking, and the balance from time spent at parties, attending cultural events, and listening to the radio. While these may seem like really small increments of time, they do add up over the course of weeks and months. As such, you may want to consider replacing some of your offline time to do the things that really make life worth living. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Talk to people face-to-face. Even in today’s connected world, digital communication is no substitute for in-person interaction. It’s simply not the same as in-person interactions with all of the emotion and body language cues.
- Take care of yourself. No time to exercise or to eat a healthy meal? No time to take a relaxing bath or to read a good book? If you spend time surfing the web or using social media, it’s likely that you have at least half an hour a day of leisure time that could be used to do these things or something else that’s good for you.
- Spend time in nature. Let’s face it; when we’re surfing the web or navigating social media, we’re generally being sedentary and unengaged with the world around us. Instead of spending your usual time on Facebook or Pinterest, why not take a walk outside, appreciating the beauty of the natural world around you—even better take a friend with you so you can really connect.
- Reconnect with relatives. Life is short, so taking every opportunity we have to enjoy time (offline) with our families should be a priority. Instead of exchanging messages on Facebook or through email, invite your relatives over for some real bonding time, including board games, a real meal cooked together at home, or just an afternoon of relaxation and recounting family stories.
- Do nothing. Part of the allure of the Web is that we can feel productive simply by surfing it. However, there’s nothing wrong with doing nothing—and it might actually do you a lot of good in terms of enhancing your problem-solving and creative abilities. So disconnect, unplug, and learn to be still with life on a regular basis.
There’s no doubt that the Internet has transformed our lives and, for the most part, it’s been for the better. However, like most things, balance is the key. Take time daily—or at least weekly—to do some of the activities suggested above or to incorporate some of your own favorite offline pursuits. Chances are, you’ll find that doing so will improve the overall quality of your life.