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Of Tech and Time


I have noticed an interesting phenomena related to a person ’s view of the speed with which time is passing by. There is a truism that has held for quite some time that as we age, we perceive time to be running faster and faster. When we are young (say 5) summers seemed to last forever but when we age (60) summers tend to go by in the blink of an eye.

In this document “Why time seems to go by more quickly as we get older” more than one theory is put forth to attempt to explain this. Regardless of theory, the truism exists but you have to wonder if till now.

The Young are Expressing Time’s passing Like the Older

Something of late seems different. This is not a scientifically validated theory but observational in nature. Younger people (the 20, 25 or 30 year old) are reporting their perception of time quite differently than when I was that age. They also are having to manage time differently. An older person more frequently relies on some type of task management system to manage time and not to forget to do something. Younger people seem to employing these same techniques now but didn’t used to and it doesn’t appear they are just because the system are there but rather there is a legitimate need.

When I was twenty along with my cohort we experienced summers very differently than today’s young person or so it would appear.Time seemed to linger and a summer was a season and not a day or the blink of an eye. There seemed time to do things, except maybe around exam time, and there wasn’t this scramble to write everything down that had to be due for fear of forgetting it.

Today’s young person is expressing a sense of time more like that of older people. Time for them seems to be going by unusually fast when one thinks of it in a relative sense. They report more anxiety and stress statistically along with a sense of often being overwhelmed.

Is Tech Playing a Role

The most obvious difference at both a societal and personal level is the role tech plays in people’s lives. Young people today that are 20 have been born into a technological world that did not just include the PC but that of mobility. Tech has surrounded them from birth unlike the 20 year old of ten, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty years ago.

Tech was supposed to enrich our lives and free us up from some of the drudgery of work. It might have done that in some narrow case but overall the effect of tech, due to the speed with which it changes and it’s pervasiveness in society, can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed. The number of inputs that are coming at anyone these days is numerous. Some will tell you there is so much content on TV they have no idea where to begin. The days of standing around the cooling water and chatting about last nights episode of xyz show are over as people watch things on demand, when they want to watch it.

What of the older person though. If time has sped up for the younger person, is not the older person in a state of frenzy due to tech. Not necessarily. They did not grow up with the technology. When older people are retiring, they might keep tech around but in a much different fashion. They, except for the addicted, are less likely to live on social media, text others to the wee hours and if tech starts to get in their way they are just as likely to do only with what they have to as opposed to taking it all on. Additionally, they don’t feel like they have to be the masters of these systems and are far more likely to reach out for help if not farm out that with which they have too much trouble with.

The overall inputs for the demographics are likely different. You just have to watch a younger person with this tech. They are doing the thing they want to do in life and are not I.T. people, but the way they use the systems is very broad ranging ways. The more broad ranging your use of tech, the greater the variety of inputs from mail to text to video and on it goes.

The Speed of Time Relative to Overall Inputs

In the article quoted above, inputs are touched on when a young person has to take in new inputs putting greater processing power on them thus changing time perception. However, there is a lot to be studied with respect to the effects of tech. This is yet likely one more area as there is no question that the current information revolution is broad ranging and deeply impacting. From assisting us with many tasks it also increases the amount to be learned and the number of inputs from the very system that is supposed to be helping.

At first glance, this one area of impact would suggest a negative. The old expression, life is short generally rings a bell with everyone. If our technology is speeding up a process that at one time made life appear longer, we would want to address that in some fashion. Now that tech has become so embedded in the fabric of the modern world, new studies are beginning all the time to determine value, problems and ways to address things. Jacque Ellul, the famous French sociologist/philosopher believed for every negative technique developed we could and would develop a countervailing technique to bring things back into harmony. Possibly, this is required now that there is no turning back.

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