More than ever today, we hear handwringing among the press, politicians, and pollsters, about how America is “headed in the wrong direction,” and eager finger-pointing over who is to blame. Naturally, we assume that it is our politicians (especially the ones on the other side of the aisle, of course) who are responsible for the general national malaise. But how much of it, I can’t help but wonder, is due simply to the steady inebriation of our senses with electronic media, and abandonment of reading? One doesn’t have to be a Luddite to be sobered by the following statistics (taken from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows):
1150: minutes per week that the average American young adult spends online (on a computer)
49: minutes per week that the average American young adult spends reading any form of print publication.
2,272: number of texts per month the average American teen sends (that’s 75 per day)
153: hours per month the average American spends in front of the TV (still rising despite increased internet usage)
Unsurprisingly, Americans outstrip Europeans by a long shot, spending 50% more time surfing the Net and three times as much time in front of the TV.
(These figures are all from 2009, I should add, and are most likely considerably worse now, as they had been getting worse at a rapid pace through 2009.)
And consider that, as of 2006, 42% of those watching over 35 hours of TV programming a week (the national average) also used the Net for over 30 hours a week, for a total of over 65 hours per week, nearly 2/3 of their waking hours.