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Good Question: What Did We Do With Our Time Before Facebook?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For people who use social media a lot, it can be hard to remember what it was like before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. According to one study sponsored by Facebook some of us spend more than two hours a day connected to our phones.

So that had us wondering: What did we used do with all of that time?

“I don’t know,” said Kate Rokowski of Minneapolis, “I’m 23, so there wasn’t really a time before.”

Seth Lewis, a professor of digital media at the University of Minnesota, says much of our social media and networking happens when we’re doing other things, like watching television, waiting for the bus or talking with other people.

“For most people, the phone has become the ultimate way to avoid the difficulty of boredom or not having something to do,” he said.

Lewis says social media use is generally complementary, but can displace certain things, like face-to-face communication.

The crunching of the social media raw numbers, though, can be difficult because most researchers use a tool called time use surveys.

“It’s hard to pick up in a time use survey because you only report primary activity,” said Laura Flood, a research associate with the Minnesota Population Center. “It really depends on how people understand what they’re doing.”

Put another way, Lewis says, “If you were to ask me how often I look at my phone, I would no idea how to answer that question because I don’t purposefully say now it’s time to look at my phone.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey, our basic habits haven’t changed all that much over a decade. We sleep about 10 minutes more than in 2003 and watch 15 minutes more television. But we spend 10 minutes less on household stuff and helping take care of others. We also work about 10 minutes less per day than we used to.

“You’re seeing this blending of boundaries where more work is being done at home,” Lewis said.

In the aggregate, Lewis says people are generally doing the same things, but some studies have shown younger people are less likely to watch television.

“For individual groups of people, it’s possible that things have changed since we made phones and social media more a part of our everyday lives,” he said.

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