Here's How The Internet Is Stealing The Time You Would Be Spending On Other Things

Every minute you spend making cat memes represents 0.05 minutes you could have spent socializing, 0.27 minutes you could have spent on work, 0.04 minutes of relaxing and thinking and 0.12 minutes less of sleep.

That’s what a new NBER research paper by Scott Wallsten finds after looking at the opportunity costs of spending your leisure time on the Internet. The Economist’s Greg Ip pointed us to this.

Wallsten analyses data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which follows 13,000 Americans for 24 hours and breaks down how they spend their time. Wallsten looked at the data point that measures the time spent on “Computer use for leisure (excluding games),” and looks at how it impacts other forms of leisure, such as watching TV, socializing, and attending parties and cultural events.

Here’s a chart breaking down what activities get crowded out by Internet use.

A large part of this this Internet leisure time happens during the work-day, between 9 am to 5 pm, but it peaks during the post-dinner period at around 10 pm.

Of course, time spent on the Internet differs by demographic.

Breaking down the population by income, Wallsten finds that the richer you get, the less free time you have on the whole. However, your time spent unwinding on the Internet does increase. Internet leisure time is lowest among the lower income groups between $US5000 to $US15,000 a year, presumably because of lack of access to the internet.

Internet leisure time decreases with education, and declines 5.5% for people with Ph.Ds. It’s also highest for those without a high school diploma and high school graduates.

A racial breakdown shows that those identifying as “White-Asian-Hawaiian” spend nearly 50% of their free time on the internet, followed by “White-Asian,” “Black,” and finally “White.”

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