The history of the calendar and how we got the calendar that we got today is an interesting but complicated matter.
via (Brain Pickings)
Some days ago I read a blog post from The Story’s Story that inferred that one of the reasons the 99 per centers are 99 per centers is because they watch too much Television. I thought that to be an interesting premise and wondered how much truth there was to it. I did what every well meaning net citizen would do: I asked the internet about it.
I first thought about the Q and A website Quora since I’ve seen many great questions and answers there. It was the first question I have asked there, and perhaps that’s the reason, but I only got one answer and it was to tell me that there wasn’t any info on the General Society Survey website that linked the two things. I did search for a bit and found that the average amount watched was 2 to 3 hours. That survey though was up to 2006. The Nielsen numbers are more current, which is an average of 4 to 5 hours.
Since on Quora the question didn’t gain any traction, I went to Ask MetaFilter. Now that’s a rich Q and A community. I received a total of 11 answers and they were all useful and insightful. A lot of them pointed me to surveys and studies. Actual PDF documents like the American Time Use Survey and the Annenberg study.
Of note was the finding that low income families are more likely to have a Tv in their children’s bedroom than higher income families and that higher income people are more likely to go out to dinner and do more outdoor activities in their leisure time.
Of course, as a MetaFilter commenter pointed out, if we’re just talking about the US and not globally, it will be a completely different picture. There are places in the world were people can’t afford a Tv and there’s simply no infrastructure to transmit broadcast signals.
The reason this whole topic has resonated with me is because I’m struggling with it. I’ve been trying to cut down not just my Television viewing but all my media consumption. The motivation was by reading The Information Diet book, which is a book I highly recommend.
Correlation is not causation, and I mentioned this first as a warning, and because perhaps subconsciously I was wishing it to be a causation. People don’t get rich because they watch less Tv. They watch less Tv because they’re rich. The poor, (poorer than the upperclass) aren’t poor because they watch a lot of Tv. They just watch a lot Tv because they’re poor.
So what did I learn? It’s easy to infer that there is a strong correlation by looking at other studies, but until a study is done that links the two data points, we can only infer. Reason and logic will bring you to that conclusion. If you spend most of your time on some passive activity that distracts you from other activities you could be doing, you’re not going to accomplish many things in life. And you’re definitely not going to make any money while sitting on the couch flipping channels. You might be entertained, culturally enlightened by watching Mad Men, and even theoretically learning something by watching PBS, but you will still be not doing something. To reference and paraphrase Clay Shirky in a different context, the problem with Television is that it doesn’t have a mouse or a keyboard.
Over at The Story’s Story, Jake Seliger argues that the 99%’s are the 99% because they watch too much Television and is surprised that time spent watching Tv is not considered a factor when speaking about income equality/inequality. Seliger writes:
In all of the contemporary reports and newspaper accounts and blog posts about income equality, I’ve never seen TV consumption mentioned. To me TV consumption is astonishing and might also be linked to Americans’ larger economic problems—I can’t imagine that most successful, people who earn a lot of money watch anything like four hours of TV a day, because where would they get the time? I also doubt TV probably isn’t imparting the skills and knowledge that future high earners need to be high earners. It could be that I’m succumbing to the availability bias and assuming that the high earners I know are representative, but the fact itself still amazes.
It’s a valid argument and I can see how time spent watching Tv can correlate with income. If you spend less time watching Tv, you will probably use that free time learning something new, thus having an earning potential there. However, the problem I see with the premise that people’s income is correlated with time spent watching Tv is that you can say that about any activity, or any type of media consumption. People could be richer if they bought and read less books, listened to less music, or watched less movies. They could create more stuff if they consumed less stuff.
There has to be a definite link between Tv viewing, the bad kind of Tv viewing, and your ability to accomplish a goal, be it a financial goal or just learning a new skill. Even today with the web and social media, Tv is the strongest time sucking medium there is. I want to agree completely with Seliger, but again, you can blame anything else that is distracting you from doing something productive. I advocate for the same thing Seliger is advocating though. There should be more studies on yearly incomes compared to time watching Tv.
Time magazine apparently didn’t get the memo that the Hipster Criticism Article was declared dead a long time ago, but I guess it’s one of those articles that will always provoke a reaction. It’s like the What The Hell is Twitter Article. It simply begs for a flame war and if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing, do yourself a favor and check out the above Metafilter thread.
Rick Astley, the “Never Gonna Give you Up” singer, or the “Rickroll” dude as he’s most popularly known, writes about Moot being Time’s most influential person.
Before I heard about moot — the mysterious 21-year-old creator of the influential Web message board 4chan.org, who just happened to win TIME.com’s online poll to determine the world’s most influential people — I used to think some young kid had stumbled across my video and thought it would be funny to send it to his mates, and it just kind of caught on. I suppose at first I was a little embarrassed by it. I always liken it to when people look through their photo albums or home videos from 20 years ago and think, Gosh, did I really wear that?
Well, if Rain won in 2006, this shouldn’t be surprising.
Since Moot launched 4chan.org in 2003, the site has given birth to Internet memes as diverse as Lolcats and Rickrolling. 4chan averages 13 million page views a day and 5.6 million visitors a month; by some estimates it is the second largest bulletin board in the world.
Update: Like if there was any doubt about it, here’s how the results were hacked.
The #1 idea of the Time’s “10 Ideas that are changing the world right now” is having a job. Apparently, having a job now is a good way to make money. Rhetorical question here, but when did they stop being a good way to make money?
It felt kind of odd reading this. It feels somewhat insulting in a way. Like when trust fund hipsters check out the homeless to get fashion cues. It’s written with the assumption that everyone is an investor or wants to be an investor. Part of the mixed feelings I guess is the idea that just having a job was/is viewed(by 5% or less, I think) as a dead end and that investing was the way to the american dream. Check out the first paragraph of the #1 idea that’s changing the world:
Remember when jobs weren’t worth your small talk? Think back a year or two. Picture yourself at a cocktail party or maybe picking up the kids from soccer. How did the conversation go? You talked about your house. A new deck! You talked about your portfolio. Gotta go small cap. Did you mention how much pleasure you derived from bringing home a steady paycheck? Probably not. “Land was valuable, and capital was valuable, and labor — who cared?” says David Ellison, a Boston-based money manager. “The attitude was, As long as I buy a few homes and invest in a hedge fund, I’m done. I can sit in my chair and watch football games.”
I though that the Times was a populist publication, not an “uppity” mag like the New Yorker. Hell, not even the New Yorker would publish something as pretentious as that. But overall I get the point and the article is worth a read.
The “Dunbar number“, which is supposedly the maximum amount (150) of people an individual can interact without loosing his mind, keeps being consistent. Even in online social networks like Facebook, no matter how big the friend list is, the number of people they interact with stays pretty low. A study done by Cameron Marlow shows the pattern:
Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.
If more thinkers stopped with the “nature vs nurture” debate and take another approach to studying the genius phenomenon, maybe we can start understanding it better. From the Time article:
For most of its history, the debate over what leads to genius has been dominated by a bitter, binary argument: is it nature or is it nurture — is genius genetically inherited, or are geniuses the products of stimulating and supportive homes? Simonton takes the reasonable position that geniuses are the result of both good genes and good surroundings. His middle-of-the-road stance sets him apart from more ideological proponents like Galton (the founder of eugenics) as well as revisionists like Gladwell who argue that dedication and practice, as opposed to raw intelligence, are the most crucial determinants of success.
This one is gargantuan, so I’m just pulling a random quote so you can keep on with your life. Bookmark it now, panic later. From the Atlantic article:
No place in the United States is likely to escape a long and deep recession. Nonetheless, as the crisis continues to spread outward from New York, through industrial centers like Detroit, and into the Sun Belt, it will undoubtedly settle much more heavily on some places than on others. Some cities and regions will eventually spring back stronger than before. Others may never come back at all. As the crisis deepens, it will permanently and profoundly alter the country’s economic landscape. I believe it marks the end of a chapter in American economic history, and indeed, the end of a whole way of life.